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Plant maintenance - advice for managers

MCP Consulting Groupvisit website

 

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. MCP Consulting and Training suggestions some questions that managers should ask themselves.

In some European countries as many as 20 per cent of all workplace accidents are connected with maintenance - and in some sectors over half of all accidents are maintenance-related.

Do you know whether your maintenance is being carried out properly?

Good plant maintenance is essential to control workplace risks, but can, itself, be a high-risk activity for the workers that carry it out. It is estimated that in Europe 10-15 per cent 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:

  • General maintenance
  • Workload planning and control
  • Productivity and maintenance effectiveness
  • Training and safety
  • Motivation, culture and people management

The AMIS programme assesses systems and procedures - in particular, health, safety and environment processes - to ensure Best Practice in Health and Safety.

At a company level, the directors are 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 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 competent technicians and operators are a prerequisite for good business.

Competence is linked to safety and plant efficiency. Section 2 of the 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.

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 2009 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 the findings show that many organisations still have some way to go to improve performance in the provision of effective training (the full report is available from MCP).

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 to. 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 per cent of companies have provided their staff with formal training in maintenance management techniques.
  • Only 18 per cent 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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