Plant maintenance and safety

Worker health and safety threatened by plant maintenance failures
Europe-wide safe maintenance campaign officially launched

Dr Jukka Takala

Launching the Campaign at the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels, Dr Jukka Takala, Director of EU-OSHA, alongside the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Mr László Andor, outlined the campaign’s objectives and the basic rules for safe maintenance as a key contribution to healthy workplaces.
Mr Andor giving his backing to the Campaign, said: “Maintenance is a daily part of every workplace and sector. The 20% of accidents currently linked to maintenance is too high and shows it’s an area where we have to raise awareness and step up our efforts”. He added: “Our overall strategy is to cut work-related accidents in the EU by 25% over the coming years. This campaign will help to raise awareness about maintenance-related risks, saving lives across Europe and bringing us closer to our overall goal for safer and healthier workplaces”.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched its new Healthy Workplaces Campaign for 2010/11, promoting safe maintenance across Europe. In some European countries as much as 20% of all workplace accidents are connected with maintenance and in a number of sectors over half of all accidents are maintenance-related.

A Challenge to  industry – do you know whether your maintenance is being carried out properly?
Good plant maintenance is essential to prevent workplace risks, but can be itself a high risk activity for the workers that carry it out.

It is estimated that in Europe 10-15% of fatal accidents at work can be attributed to poorly executed maintenance operations. It is vital therefore, that maintenance is carried out properly, taking into consideration workers’ safety and health. To do this, companies need to understand and measure their Maintenance and Asset Management Performance.

MCP’s AMIS auditing and benchmarking service has been used by over 4000 sites worldwide to measure maintenance performance, taking into account areas such as:

>      Equipment Condition

>      Workload Planning and Control

>      Productivity and Maintenance Effectiveness

>      Training and Safety

>      Motivation, Culture and People Management.

The AMIS programme assesses your systems and procedures, in particularly your Health, Safety and Environment process to ensure Best Practice in Health and Safety.

At a company level, the Board of Directors is required to demonstrate their responsibility for the assets and ensure a safe working environment, commensurate with generating the required return on investment.  The AMIS best practice programme helps companies meet these requirements by:

>      Defining consistent ways of working

>      Ensuring a process for effective management providing the basis for driving increased return on investment

>      Providing a link and support framework for effective Lean Manufacturing application.

Do you know whether your workforce is competent and sufficiently trained to maintain and operate your equipment?
Achieving the highest standard in equipment maintenance is all well and good, but even well maintained machines can still be hazardous to a badly trained operator and it goes without saying that competent technicians and operators are a prerequisite for good business.

Competence is linked to safety and plant efficiency.  Section 2 of the British Health and Safety at Work Act requires all employers `to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all his/her employees’.  Section 3 extends this to non employees. (See British Health and Safety Executive site.)

In order to do this, an employer must understand the legal duties facing him/her, and keep up to date with any changes.  Section 2 also requires employers `to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable the H & S at work of all employees.’

The IMechE published an article in April 09 on the need for managers to protect themselves with respect to corporate manslaughter, with more cases now being brought against individuals.  If there is not enough evidence for a corporate manslaughter charge, the HSE focuses on getting a conviction under section 37 of HSW Act which applies to individuals.

MCP has researched over 350 companies to understand their approach to maintenance related training, and their findings show that many organisations still have some way to go to improve performance in the provision of effective training.

To ensure safe and productive operation of equipment requires operators to be fully competent in the operation of the equipment.  All too often training is based on the ‘watch Nelly approach’ or initial training is not followed up with checks to ensure the standard operating procedures are being adhered. It is also a common practice to transfer operators to equipment on which they have not being trained when staff shortages occur.

MCP’s Research highlights include:

>      Only 16% of companies have provided their staff with formal training in maintenance management techniques.

>      Only 18% of companies reported that all their plant operators were fully trained and competent to operate the production equipment.

Adopting a structured approach to training that provides the right training at the right time can not only prevent safety risks, it can also improve equipment performance and plant efficiency.

Poorly managed maintenance activities and procedures raise the risks of workplace accidents, including fatal accidents, involving workers at all levels across a wide range of industries. In one of the worst incidents of its kind in Europe, the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988 saw the North Sea oil and gas platform turned into a blazing inferno within seconds, killing 167 workers – a tragic example of the potential consequences of inadequate maintenance procedures.

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