MRO Magazine

Asset Management: Plan ahead to reduce costly accidents


June 1, 2005
By PEM Magazine

We believed in safety when I first started out in maintenance, but we also cut corners. You know the drill: it was other people who got hurt and didn’t know what they were doing. Times have changed since then. There’s now an increased focus on equipment uptime, higher cost of accidents, more lawsuits and criminal prosecution for wilful safety violations.

To improve safety performance, companies have to remain committed to creating an accident-free workplace. This includes never letting an unsafe act go unnoticed, factoring safety issues into work-order planning, enforcing lock out and tag out (LOTO), demanding the use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and creating realistic safety inspection programs.

To be a successful leader, you also can’t ignore safety misconduct. Managers have to always remember that they set the tone by their actions. Allowing unsafe acts to occur in your presence (or after it’s brought to your attention) sends the signal to your crew that you will tolerate other unacceptable behaviours. You then open the flood gates to additional problems.

Work-order planning, LOTO enforcement and effective PPE are more about attitude and habit. These are “walking the walk" items. They become easier for managers to implement and enforce when they learn the phrase: “No, we’re not doing it that way." Here are useful tips to help make your maintenance department and plant a safer place for workers:

  • When planning work orders, treat safety equipment like any other required part. It’s important to check on availability and don’t schedule the work order if a necessary safety item isn’t available;
  • Add a space to work-order forms for “required safety items";
  • When planning work orders, ask if the equipment should be operating or non-operating to perform the requested work;
  • With LOTO and PPE, you have to lead by example. I’m talking about having your own equipment and always being prepared with the correct PPE;
  • Ensure that stock safety equipment is in sufficient quantities and in working order;
  • Throw away damaged safety equipment (never also let a person take damaged safety equipment home); and
  • Look for ways to standardize safety equipment to reduce replacement-part stocking requirements and simplify required training. This also reduces the number of safety-related preventive maintenance (PM) tasks you must create.

To establish lasting compliance, you have to develop realistic inspection programs that pertain to safety and other equipment, which may cause an accident (i.e. ladders, hoists and lifting chains). These inspections are often overlooked as part of a PM program, but they represent the essence of asset management systems—creating routine activities to maintain equipment in “like new" condition.

PM work orders become your surveillance method, while the records in the computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system become the documentation for safety regulation compliance. To add safety inspections to your existing program, follow the same process as you would for creating PMs with any new process.

First, identify all the items requiring safety inspections, then write interval PM work orders for each piece of equipment. Make work instructions for the technicians, who are performing the inspections, action oriented with objective, measurable criteria. As part of the PM creation process, establish measurable thresholds for replacing or overhauling safety equipment.

To ensure that you’re checking for the appropriate hazards, use national and local safety regulations, industry association guidelines, the equipment manufacturer’s recommendations and your own personal safety lessons learned. Try and have additional people check over new PM work orders. Your company’s insurance carrier should also review the PMs during its annual visit.

I further recommend that maintainers consider using “smart-numbering" systems to make tracking, managing and compliance verification easier. Smart-numbering systems also simplify the use of future safety PMs on equipment, which has existing unrecognized hazards.

Creating a safe workplace doesn’t come easy or occur overnight. It takes a commitment to safety, followed by good maintenance and management practices. The investment in time and effort, however, will result in fewer accidents, improved MRO performance and reduced costs.

John M. Gross works as a Six Sigma master Blackbelt and lean manufacturing manager for a Tier 1 automotive supplier. He’s the author of Fundamentals of Preventive Maintenance and co-author of Kanban Made Simple. In addition to being a professional engineer, he’s also a certified plant and quality engineer. You can reach him by email: