It is a well-known fact that too many recordable safety incidents will result in the good people from OSHA showing up to hang around and ask a lot of questions. Nobody wants to get hurt on the job. Everyone at the facility has some other place to be once their shift is over, and many employees have family waiting for them. With that being said, why would people continue to operate poorly maintained manufacturing equipment and material-handling machinery?
The answer is simple. They lack a preventive-maintenance (PM) plan that serves their overall needs at the facility. Contrary to some opinions, however, a good PM program will save you both money and downtime. And you can see these savings in one form or another almost immediately after implementing a PM schedule and then adhering to it.
How does preventive maintenance directly affect safety-recordable incidents?
Poorly maintained equipment is a real nightmare for everyone involved. The operators aren’t sure it’s going to run until the end of the shift without a downtime-inducing shutdown. The maintenance technicians are wringing their hands and watching the machine walk out of spec with every full rotation. The safety coordinator is gathering all of the department training records just in case a recordable is caused by the equipment failing and causing an employee to be injured.
Although it sounds laughable when the collective mindset is described, the aforementioned is factual and accurate in many facilities today. Poorly maintained equipment is nothing more than a breakdown or an injury waiting to happen. For example, a poorly maintained air-conditioning system can result in condensation buildup, and water dripping from the vents will soon follow. That quickly becomes a slip-and-fall hazard due to the puddles that start to form underneath the air vents.
You could compare the lack of a good PM program to a car that hasn’t had any maintenance or repairs performed. Eventually, both of these scenarios are going to leave you broken down someplace that you absolutely don’t want to be. It is actually mandated by OSHA that certain industries have a PM program in place, and the maintenance of safety equipment for nearly all facilities is also included in these regulations.
Although the mindset in the past was that maintenance is a costly habit to be avoided until there was no other choice, it’s becoming a more widely known fact that preventive maintenance is either going to be allotted for or the equipment will ensure that you give maintenance technicians time for repairs. That time will be in the form of unplanned downtime and unexpected costs associated with repairing an emergency breakdown that has stopped operations in their tracks.
Your Early Equipment Failure Detection System
When a facility has a good PM program in place, equipment is inspected and handled by mechanics often and on a predictable cycle. This ensures that a machine that isn’t running the way the manufacturer designed it to run is going to be noticed and addressed. When the maintenance technician is performing a seal change or lubing a part of that equipment while performing the preventive maintenance, they will also be in a position to determine why the machine isn’t operating to spec and make a judgment call on shutting the machine down to repair it or letting it operate until the next downtime period is scheduled.
Poorly maintained equipment is full of hazards, and most of them directly affect the machine operator. The facility can very quickly become an unsafe work environment, depending on the type of machine that is nearing breakdown status. It doesn’t have to be this way, and PM programs are quickly ensuring that facilities in all industries are operating efficiently and safely. By remembering that emergency situations that develop in production and manufacturing are often birthed from equipment failure, it becomes easier to allow a planned two-hour shutdown.
There are requests for visual inspection on every asset at specific intervals at the core of any good PM program. A maintenance technician should have no problem observing the equipment as it operates. While not all breakdowns can be caught early by visual inspection of the operations, a great deal of machine breakdowns were anticipated because of the machine's behavior in the moments leading up to the breakdown. The products created by the machine may be so far out of spec that they are considered scrap inventory. When PM programs are implemented and adhered to, you remove the element of surprise from the scenario.
You can bridge the gap between automation and safety by choosing a CMMS system that fits the needs of your facility and designing a PM program that is tracked and recorded by the CMMS software. With the options available to accommodate any niche of every industry, you can remove the threat of unsafe work conditions and OSHA recordables caused by improperly maintained equipment. The assets you have in your machinery are counting on you to ensure they get the most well-performing mileage possible, and preventive maintenance is the key to doing exactly that.
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