What are some popular ways to improve work safety for maintenance teams?
Just as important as efficiency is safety, and this is even more true for maintenance teams - more often than not, the job of a maintenance technician places them in dangerous areas of facilities or pieces of equipment. However, while safety for workers is much better than it used to be, there are still a staggering amount of injuries and deaths in the workplace, many of which are preventable.
With that said, let's look at some popular ways to improve safety conditions for maintenance workers.
Create and maintain reliability
Reliability can mean a lot of things, but in this context, reliability means reducing (and in some cases eliminating) the amount of emergency and unplanned maintenance.
It's not necessarily a bad thing to have some unplanned maintenance - I'd be surprised if someone managed to completely avoid unexpected breakdowns - but it is a bad thing to be constantly placing maintenance technicians in dangerous situations because of a lack of forethought and planned maintenance tasks.
When assets run reliably and maintenance is planned, there are fewer hazards to deal with in the course of emergency maintenance.
Treat the causes of accidents
When you're trying to improve safety, you should be aiming at treating the cause of an accident - you can't take back what happened, but you can prevent injuries before they happen.
For example, let's say a maintenance technician slips and falls on some oil while they're in the confines of an asset. We could say that this is the technician's fault, but ultimately the technician is the victim of poor fluid management in the asset cell. We can't treat the technician's ability to keep their footing, but we can simply fix a problem (like leaking oil/dirty floors).
Some other common causes of accidents:
- Lack of training
- Improper working conditions (lighting, platforms, height)
- Low employee morale
- No documentation for procedures
- Generalized LOTO instructions
All of these are things that can be treated at the source to eliminate hazards for maintenance employees.
Provide training, tools, and safety measures
As simple as it is, sometimes maintenance technicians are put into bad situations because they lack sufficient equipment, training, and tools to do their job.
We can discipline a technician for not wearing a harness at heights, but what if those harnesses are not provided? Or what if the technicians aren't trained on how to properly use those harnesses? Technicians are responsible for their personal safety, but maintenance management is responsible for providing the means by which technicians can keep themselves safe.
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