WORK SAFE: Facility Maintenance
Conducting routine maintenance can be dangerous, which is why doing things safely should be business as usual and not something you do only when the boss is looking. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help keep routine maintenance routine and not turn into an unwanted trip to the hospital or morgue.
Training should be conducted regularly and knowledge of safety procedures should be evaluated before a worker is permitted to do maintenance. If the maintenance requires the use of an aerial work platform or piece of equipment or tool, training by a qualified operator should take place before it is used. Safety isn’t just the manager or safety supervisor’s business; it's everyone’s business. If facility workers see something unsafe, they should feel encouraged to bring it to a supervisor’s attention. If unsafe actions are observed, retraining should take place. Training is the bedrock of a safe workplace. All employees should be trained on safety when they are hired and be encouraged to make it a priority.
Inspect your tools and equipment before maintenance begins; doing this can prevent mishaps and malfunctions that might occur during maintenance. If you’re using an aerial lift, perform the pre-start inspection included in the Operation and Safety Manual. This is also beneficial from a productivity standpoint. Sometimes it takes a while to get to where the maintenance needs to be done and discovering your equipment doesn’t work when you get there can cost precious time.
Ensure that you have all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) on and in place before starting maintenance or handling hazmat. OSHA routinely includes this on their list of top ten workplace citations. A good way to avoid this becoming an issue is to regularly inspect and inventory all PPE kept on hand in your facility. Make safety equipment easily accessible for maintenance personnel and ensure that there's enough equipment in good working order for them to complete maintenance when it's required. If you’re handling hazardous materials, follow EPA recommendations on how to dispose of waste safely without damage to the environment.
It's crucial to also inspect areas where the maintenance will be performed for possible hazards. In addition to checking the area, ensure all equipment that you’ll be working on or near is shut off in accordance with lockout and tagout procedures. Remember, it isn’t just the equipment you’re performing maintenance on that needs to be tagged out, but also any equipment that's in the vicinity that has the potential to cause harm if energized.
Make sure PPE is appropriate for the type of maintenance you're performing.
Maintenance needs to be done periodically and every piece of equipment is different. If you don’t have a maintenance plan in place, you need to implement one. Here are some things you could include to make maintenance safer and easier at your facility:
- Make a schedule. Take stock of all of the equipment in your facility that requires maintenance. Scheduled maintenance should take place in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation so consult the product maintenance manual or contact the manufacturer to find out the optimal cycle for maintenance. Once that's done, you can make a plan.
- Identify who will be performing the maintenance. Will an outside service be performing maintenance or will it be handled internally by your employees?
- Provide easily accessible maintenance information. Every piece of scheduled maintenance should have a card that goes with it that outlines what PPE and other materials are required, and step-by-step instructions on how to perform the maintenance safely. Pictures and diagrams are always a plus! Every time maintenance is performed, the worker should have a copy of the card with them as part of their required equipment.
- Record. After the maintenance has been performed, mark it complete and date it. Keeping good maintenance records can help avoid OSHA citations but more importantly, it can help prevent equipment malfunctions that put your workers in a dangerous spot.
- Train. When new employees start, they should be trained on how to properly perform maintenance in your facility according to the maintenance guide you have in place. Everyone should be aware of maintenance procedures to ensure all workers are on the same page.
Remember, proper maintenance and safety procedures are everyone’s responsibility, not just managers' and safety supervisors' jobs.