The Impact of Equipment Maintenance on Workplace Safety

When employees head to work, they should feel confident that they are going to a safe place. This begins with having the proper personal protective equipment available to all employees and giving each person enough training on how best to use PPE.

A safe work environment also involves teaching employees how to safely use each piece of machinery and ensuring that there aren’t any hidden or unknown dangers in a facility. An important, though sometimes overlooked, component to eliminating unknown dangers is performing the right maintenance on equipment so it works properly every time.

Equipment failure leads to accidents in the workplace

Any time a piece of equipment isn’t performing correctly, the risk of accidents increases. Employees can’t always predict the ways in which equipment will malfunction, and the element of surprise doesn’t benefit anyone in a work environment. Regular planned equipment maintenance can greatly reduce the frequency of equipment failure and prevent accidents in the workplace.

Multiple studies have shown the correlation between equipment failure and workplace safety accidents. One, published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, analyzed 773 accidental events at a pulp and paper company and found that about 35 percent of them involved equipment failure.

Another study that focused on accidents in mining operations, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, evaluated 562 fatalities and injuries that occurred between 2000 and 2007. In 61 cases (about 11 percent), brake failure, operator error or another mechanical problem caused a vehicle to move forward, uncontrolled, and led a collision or roll-over. NIOSH referenced a 2008 study which found that, when working with loaders, the most frequent hazards were an effect of inadequate maintenance work on the equipment.

The patterns of inadequate maintenance and failing equipment that leads to accidents, injuries, and fatalities can be seen across a wide range of industries. In the first month of the commercial Dungeness crab season, the Coast Guard responded to 28 separate accidents off the coast of Oregon and Washington.

“Most reported incidents are a result of equipment failures on vessels which are not ready for operation, poor maintenance and negligent operations while underway,” said Lt. Michael Tappan, chief of investigations division with the Marine Safety Unit Portland, in an interview with The Daily Astorian. “These accidents endanger the crews onboard each of these commercial fishing vessels, other nearby vessels, and Coast Guard search and rescue personnel.”

Preventing equipment failure

Equipment failure can occur for a number of reasons, but in many cases these dangerous incidents are preventable. Adequate training and adherence to lock-out/tag-out procedures can make a real difference in workplace safety.

Performing regular maintenance on essential assets can also go a long way in ensuring equipment can handle the day’s tasks without unexpected malfunctions. For maintenance to be an effective deterrent of equipment failure, however, it must be done as a preventive measure, not a reactive course of action.

Creating a schedule of planned maintenance for each and every asset in your facility can keep your system running with few interruptions due to equipment malfunctions. Regular preventive maintenance allows service professionals identify the beginnings of potential problems before they cause equipment slowdowns or shutdowns. Working with a national company that offers centralized services gives large, far-reaching businesses the ability to deploy high-quality maintenance projects and asset inspections throughout their entire network. To learn more about creating a planned maintenance schedule at your facilities, reach out to Miner.