Slips, trips and falls — many industrial accidents fall into one of these categories. We slip on liquids that have leaked. We trip over things not normally there like tools and parts on the floor. We fall from temporary structures like scaffolds and ladders. These risks arise when working to fix failures, creating an abnormal situation.
Anytime we create an abnormal situation, we run the risk someone will make a mistake, react inappropriately, fail to pay attention and get hurt. Reacting to failed equipment creates such situations. And these urgent repairs are not maintenance: they are signs maintenance has failed to do its job. Safety improves when you improve reliability.
Maintenance is a sustaining activity. It sustains the means for continued operations, safety and environmental compliance through proactive means: preventive and predictive maintenance and failure-finding tests. We allow equipment to run-to-failure only when we can tolerate the consequences of those failures.
Maintenance should be focused primarily on proactive work, not on being the hero when things break. Whenever a maintainer becomes a hero for “saving the day,” there is a failure on multiple levels. Urgent reactive maintenance is a failure of both the strategies employed to prevent them and the management of those strategies by the combined efforts of maintenance and operational departments.
Maintenance often has excuses why it can’t get proactive work done: not enough resources, operations won’t release the equipment, PMs don’t work well, etc. These all point to a lack of understanding of what proactive work achieves and the mutual effort needed to execute it successfully. Working in a department, we often fail to see how we must interact with other departments to achieve our mutual goals of producing a product in a safe and environmentally sound manner. We all suffer when that is not achieved — so why not work together to achieve it?
Get this right and your proactive programs can succeed. If your proactive programs still fail to produce desired results, they need an overhaul. Look to methods like reliability-centred maintenance (RCM) and PM optimization to help you there, and use root-cause methods on those recurring chronic problems.
James Reyes-Picknell of Barrie, Ont.’s Conscious Asset Management is a certified management consultant specializing in operations excellence and asset management. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org