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Safety Leading Indicators: Consider Preventative Maintenance

Scott Gaddis

The term "preventive maintenance" commonly refers to the practice of regularly servicing equipment on a predetermined schedule so that it does not develop catastrophic failures and performs better.  

Preventative maintenance is an important aspect of owning equipment and not one to disregard. It has been proven that by carrying out a well-managed preventative maintenance program, machine reliability is improved, cost of replacement is reduced, production uptime is improved and life expectancy is increased.  

In addition, preventative maintenance has a direct tie to safety performance.  Throughout my career, maintenance activity has long been an area of concern. When machines breakdown, it increases employee interface equipment and, in many cases, because of the upset condition, quickly threatens safety of the work environment. Things such as catastrophic failure of machine systems, equipment stopping mid-cycle leaving residual energy in process, employee exposure to dangerous agents and chemicals are concerning. In addition, activities like trouble-shooting to figure out the problem and maintenance technicians working quickly to get the asset back in operation introduces additional risks increasing loss potential.  

For the Safety and Operations teams, maintenance that is reactive in nature certainly can have negative and often adverse results in both human and economic terms. In organizations I’ve been part of, there has always been a link between good safety performance and a robust preventative maintenance program.  

Supporting this idea, regulatory agencies around the world also have recognized the tie to health and safety performance and have, in the past several years, begun writing new standards or have provided further clarity to their existing standards in an effort to mandate that organizations identify risks and mitigate them before failure. Correctly maintaining your machines and other equipment is regarded as a necessary part in meeting your legal responsibilities for the safe protection of workers. There is little doubt that preventive maintenance is an important, ongoing incident prevention activity, which should be integrated into your operations and product manufacturing process. 


Determining Preventative Maintenance Measures 

Deciding what preventative maintenance measures to pursue - that also have a positive impact on EHS performance - requires a reflection on the current situation. As stated above, first in my mind is the desire to limit worker interface with machines and equipment in an upset condition. Keeping workers focused on standardized work that they have been trained and have the best skills to do, and with time to do it, limits unnecessary loss exposure. Another benefit is that preventive maintenance measures can drastically reduce errors in day-to-day operations, as well as increase the overall preparedness of facilities in the case of an emergency.  

There are many common types of preventative maintenance measures. Inspection, measuring, observing and testing, condition monitoring, compliance testing and routine servicing are a few general measures with sub-categories under each. Of interest for the safety and health practitioner is to consider what to understand in effort to build robustness in the organizations safety management system. These are four that should be considered:  

1. Preventive Maintenance (PM) Completion Rate 

Low PM completion rates directly correlate to increased future equipment maintenance work. High PM completion rates means that needed equipment maintenance is being completed and future maintenance issues will be avoided. For safety, maintenance technicians should work within a standardized environment with the appropriate time allocated for their tasks, lessening their risks of working with machinery in upset conditions.  

2. Equipment Reliability (% Downtime)  

Unplanned machine downtime is the time a machine is not operating against its scheduled run time. Not operating equipment that is down when it should be operating restricts the volume of products that make it to market, which means lost sales from product that could not be delivered on time. It also elevates a safety concern because it turns attention to reactive maintenance, increasing the chance of workers working above their capability in effort to return equipment back to production as quickly as possible.  

Other tangible concerns such as training, overtime, performing non-standardized job tasks and increased job stress from "catching up" once the machine is returned to production are just a few of many concerns associated with machine downtime.  In addition, special attention should be paid to equipment used to protect safety (e.g. emergency generators, lighting, emergency cooling systems, water, stack emissions equipment) since their reliability is critical. 

3. Equipment Root Cause Investigations Completed  

Understanding failure at the level of its root cause(s) is imperative for a sustainable preventative maintenance program. Maintenance personnel need to be problem solvers and through their work, make the plant and equipment more reliable. Just as with any robust safety process where we want to understand human loss, we should have the same interest in understanding loss in other parts of the work system that pose a threat to the safety management system.   

4. Exposure Hours Lost for Emergency and Safety Work Orders 

Understanding the level of human interaction with equipment is important. This is a measure of how much unplanned emergency work is performed and usually is captured as work exposure hours required to keep equipment in operation. As such, it is a good measure to use in understanding how far out of control the process has drifted from a preventative approach. With tangible indicators gained by root cause and system failure analysis, the organization quickly can reduce the number of exposure hours and improve the maintenance process and machine reliability.  

Preventive maintenance assures optimal working conditions and conserves the life span of the equipment. It preserves time and allows for a structured approach to work for everyone involved, from production input to product output to the customer. A second and more important benefit for safety is that well-maintained machines are safe machines to run and by keeping them running and maintained, you provide a safe environment for your workers.  

To attain safety excellence, we all must realize that safety is but one part of an overall management system and sustainable safety success literally hinges on the success of how the overall management system acts.  

Connect with Scott on Linkedin by clicking HERE

Please click on these links to read some of Scott’s articles:

What you need to know about EHS auditing best practice

Laser-Focused Safety Vision

The 5 Basic Principles of HOP (Human and Organizational Performance)

Hear Scott’s thoughts about demonstrating the commitment to EHSQ here:

Top Management: Demonstrating Your Commitment to Safety

Scott Gaddis: A Leader Cares for Employee Health & Safety and the Protection of our Natural Resources 

About the Author: Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health

Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health at Intelex Technologies. He has over 25 years in EHS leadership experience in heavy manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging industries. Before joining Intelex, Scott served as Vice President of EHS for Coveris High Performance Packaging, was Executive Director of EHS at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and was Global Leader for Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark Corp.



This material provided by the Intelex Community and EHSQ Alliance is for informational purposes only. The material may include notification of regulatory activity, regulatory explanation and interpretation, policies and procedures, and best practices and guidelines that are intended to educate and inform you with regard to EHSQ topics of general interest. Opinions are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Intelex. The material is intended solely as guidance and you are responsible for any determination of whether the material meets your needs. Furthermore, you are responsible for complying with all relevant and applicable regulations. We are not responsible for any damage or loss, direct or indirect, arising out of or resulting from your selection or use of the materials.

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July 03, 2018 @ 11:47 AM EDT Manufacturing, Chemical, Construction, Energy - Oil and Gas Health & Safety, Operations, Risk Management

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