Safety is a major issue in maintenance activities, especially in the industrial sector. Effective occupational risk management can greatly improve the safety of maintenance technicians and of all employees involved in the maintenance of equipment and machinery.
As maintenance is increasingly outsourced, the procedures and tools used for risk management must be adapted to guarantee optimum safety for the personnel involved. The use of a mobile and efficient CMMS represents a major asset to reach this objective.
Why use a CMMS to improve safety in the field of maintenance?
Choosing a good CMMS makes it easier to manage risks and improve the safety of maintenance technicians in several ways. Indeed, a CMMS allows you to:
- centralize equipment-related information;
- improve internal communication;
- manage the maintenance schedule more easily;
- have a better compliance with safety standards;
- improve prevention.
Safety and risk management in maintenance
Maintenance is a field in which risk management, whether it concerns employees or machines, is an essential parameter to take into account.
Maintenance and safety of technicians
The issue of employee safety and risk management is closely linked to the area of maintenance. According to the French Association of Maintenance Engineers and Managers (Afim), the number of serious accidents in the maintenance sector is three times higher than the national average.
Maintenance technicians are even more exposed to risks than production staff, particularly because the possible causes of accidents are more numerous and diverse.
There are greater risks in maintenance because of the very nature of the interventions performed, which :
- are not always repetitive, and therefore subject to hazards and unusual situations;
- are often performed on equipment in operation;
- force the technicians to be in contact with bare live parts or with pressurized fluids
- are often submitted to strong time constraints, in particular when the equipment concerned is crucial for production;
- regularly take place at night, or in poorly lit or cramped spaces;
- are associated with a high mental load when they are performed on complex industrial systems;
- are performed on components or machines that are often difficult to access, disassemble and reassemble, and can be heavy to handle.
The impact of new organizational forms on maintenance safety
In addition, maintenance operations are increasingly outsourced: on-site subcontracting, application of manufacturer’s warranties, one-off services, etc. Different employees, with different statuses, may therefore be required to work simultaneously or successively on the same equipment or within the same company, while being likely to have to communicate.
These new organizational forms have important consequences on the safety of maintenance technicians and on the professional risks to which they are exposed:
- maintenance personnel have not always received optimal information and preparation;
- the follow-up and coordination of interventions may be insufficient;
- the knowledge of the equipment condition or its history may be insufficiently nurtured;
- interventions may be carried out in situations of “co-activity” with production personnel, or between maintenance technicians of different companies;
- emergency repairs may be carried out by insufficiently competent in-house technicians, due to the lack of available external personnel.
Risk management is therefore playing an increasingly important role in the management of maintenance and for the teams responsible for it.
How to improve the safety of maintenance technicians
To improve the safety of maintenance personnel, there are 3 essential guidelines:
- adapt risk management to the type of maintenance applied;
- promote the best possible communication between all the parties involved;
- set up a prevention plan.
Adapt the risk management to the type of maintenance
Risk prevention and management cannot be the same for curative and preventive maintenance.
Curative or palliative maintenance operations (diagnosing a machine breakdown, changing faulty parts, adjustments, restarting the machine, etc.) are carried out unexpectedly, sometimes in a hurry. It is therefore necessary to carry out an analysis of the specific risks before each intervention in order to set up the appropriate prevention procedures and tools. The safety instructions must be adapted to the specific context of the breakdown and the equipment affected.
Easily create a checklist with the CMMS
For preventive maintenance (cleaning, lubrication, checks, changing of wearing parts, etc.), which is regular and planned, protective devices can be provided to minimize the risk of accidents or exposure.
More generally, the prevention of occupational hazards begins with the design of the machines, which must be built in such a way that the end users can maintain them without too many difficulties or risks. It also involves the design of workplaces, particularly industrial buildings, which must foresee how maintenance work is to be carried out and include devices to ensure the health and safety of operators.
Improve communication between the maintenance professionals
Maintenance management always involves several people. At a minimum, it involves a production operator and a maintenance technician, but also often colleagues or their line managers: production manager, maintenance manager, etc. But, as we have seen above, maintenance operations are also increasingly involving people from outside the company or the teams directly concerned.
This increase in the number of people involved creates problems in terms of security, especially in terms of communication and access to information. Therefore, implementing tools (e.g. mobile CMMS software) and procedures that promote fluid communication enables much better risk management.
Communicate easily thanks to the CMMS internal chat
To improve maintenance safety, it is therefore recommended to:
- centralize information on equipment, so that each person involved has quick and easy access to it: regulations, safety instructions, operating procedures, etc. ;
- facilitate communication between participants and between teams: production, maintenance, external service providers, etc.
Set up a prevention plan
The implementation of a formalized prevention plan allows for better risk management and therefore promotes the safety of personnel, particularly in a context of outsourcing and subcontracting of maintenance. Safety management must therefore be shared and coordinated between the companies involved to limit the risks of “co-activity”. Coordination between maintenance teams and production teams plays an essential role in risk management.
To reduce them, a rigorous schedule defining and organizing the intervention stages of each company and each team must be established, with certain common rules: cutting off electricity or water, protective equipment, marking and signalling, etc. This organization is described in a prevention plan, which is required by law as soon as a minimum number of hours of intervention is likely to be exceeded.
Lockout procedures must also be put in place to avoid any accidental start-up of a machine or equipment during a maintenance operation. Many accidents occur when residual energy (electrical voltage, pressurized fluids, moving parts, etc.) is turned on or released while a maintenance operation is ongoing.
The lockout includes all the protection measures temporarily put in place on equipment to ensure the safety of maintenance workers. The lockout procedure includes in particular:
- the equipment’s separation from its energy sources (electrical, hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic…) which can cause movements, fires, electrocutions, projections, intoxications, etc. ;
- the sealing of the separation;
- the dissipation of accumulated energy;
- the checking that the equipment is no longer supplied with energy.
Before each intervention, the lockout manager must ensure that a risk analysis has been carried out, that the operating procedures have been defined and are available, and that the participants have received the appropriate information for the tasks to be performed.
Why CMMS-solutions enable better risk management
By choosing a powerful and mobile CMMS software, the management of maintenance-related risks is easier and more efficient.
On the one hand, it allows you to centralize information. With a mobile CMMS application, each worker can easily and quickly access, from his smartphone or tablet, all the information related to the equipment before starting his task.
On the other hand, internal communication is more fluid if the CMMS software has a chat function between users, which allows them to exchange easily when needed, including between members of different teams or different companies.
In addition, a CMMS solution allows managers to better manage the maintenance schedule, in order to guarantee a safe working environment for the personnel and complete information on the risks of each intervention.
In addition, this solution improves prevention by making safety instructions available to workers wherever they are and at any time.
Finally, a good CMMS software makes it much easier to generalize preventive maintenance plans, which are safer than a curative maintenance strategy.
Easily create maintenance plans in your CMMS
While the safety of maintenance and production professionals should be a constant concern for any industrial site manager, it can be affected by the growing number of stakeholders. However, adopting an efficient CMMS that is easy to use by all makes risk management easier and ensures the best possible safety for all teams.