The maintenance sector has undergone profound changes in the past few years, and is now considered as a cornerstone of the industrial activity and productivity. The maintenance service of the plant helps to reduce the number of production breakdowns, to improve the equipment availability and productivity, and to obtain better cost price for the company.
Maintenance, a risky business
Definition and factors of risk
Maintenance includes all the operations aiming at maintaining or reestablishing an asset in a specified condition, in order to carry out a determined service. By these very nature, these operations often involve a risk for the operator, and may cause work accidents of varying degrees of severity. The most common accident factors are:
- Planning and procedure issues: working systems, faulty resources management (people, material, documents, etc.) or defective facilities or equipment maintenance;
- failure of performance: faulty planning and scheduling of works, activity defaults, temporal and safety organization errors;
- safety devices training, information, directions;
- human failures;
- equipment conception;
- external factors (malevolent acts, weather, etc.).
One of the highest rates of accidents
The maintenance department stands out by a high accident rate in terms of frequency and seriousness, compared to production operators. This rate is way higher than the French national average (according to the AFIM - French association for maintenance engineers and managers, there are 3 times as much serious accidents and 8 times as much fatal accident in maintenance than in other sectors/departments). However, the accident rate among production operators in charge of carrying out repairing works on unmaintained or defective equipment is also particularly high, and this category thus represents the second largest group of victims of accidents in the plant.
Types of accidents and consequences
If maintenance is defective, has not been carried out early enough or improperly, the condition of the equipment can turn out to be harmful, not only during maintenance interventions, but also during the restart of the machine or its normal functioning. All individuals in interaction with the piece of equipment are concerned.
Among the most frequent accidents are:
- crushing by machine;
- fall from height or on the same level;
- gas releases or asphyxia ;
- electrocution ;
- knocks due to falling elements/objects, etc.
Beyond the damage undergone by the victim of the accident, there are often detrimental consequences for the company too: expenses, damaged tools, production losses, or consequences on the environment.
Being considered a risky job, maintenance has to comply with strict safety norms. However, despite the recent interest in this major department, potential risks to which technicians are exposed are still receiving very little attention for the moment: there are too few studies on the topic and accident-proneness data available by now.
How to foresee the risks for maintenance technicians? How to improve safety by implementing a next gen CMMS solution such as Mobility Work?
Maintenance helps to improve safety
What is the link between maintenance and safety?
Maintenance is a significant factor for safety. Obviously, setting up a non-compliant piece of equipment regarding to rules and safety norms poses a real risk for equipment operators. However, equipment aging cannot be avoided, and it systematically implies the degradation of their characteristics. This phenomenon can be linked to the actual functioning of the piece of equipment or to the passing time. Like this, the safety norms of an initially-non-defective piece of equipment can be reassessed.
Maintenance aims at maintaining or reestablishing a good in a specified condition, which also concerns the safety necessary to the proper functioning of the machine. Maintenance does not only ensure the proper functioning of the good, but can also guarantee the safety of the operators. There are several ways to carry out this improvement:
Respecting safety norms
Safety norms sometimes are difficult to comply with, due to the unpredictable and urgent nature of the failures or any other event requiring an intervention: that is the reason why it is now compulsory to integrate the scheduling of the risks from the design of the machines and facilities, through a prevention plan.
Implementing a maintenance plan
These have to be implemented from the creation of the maintenance plans for lengthy (more than 400 hours over a 12-months period) or difficult operations, or even ahead of time (risky operations). The idea is to predict all the potential risks and accidents by drawing up a list of the precautions and recommendations for operators in order to allow them to work in the most secure environment possible. It is also necessary to predict the necessary markings and signals for external players. Creating a maintenance plan enables to obtain a routine which provides technicians with a framework and a possibility to intervene on a known field, which reduces uncertainties and risks.
Basic good practices
Finally, a few good practices are essential to ensure the technicians’ safety; first, it is necessary to enable operators to work in the most serene environment possible, without any unbearable pressure. We can also mention risk control devices, risk control trainings, handling support devices to avoid injuries, providing the site with the appropriate equipment (lighting, flooring), and the right actions to carry out before starting the operation.
Additional benefits of next-gen solutions
Internal communication improvement
If the main factors of incidents have already been mentioned above, it should be made clear that, to a lesser extent, these can be linked to misjudgements or to a wrong reasoning due to a lack of communication: difficulties to collaborate, to obtain validations or tools from managers or from others departments of the company. This is how a collaborative solution, such as Mobility Work, the first online maintenance management platform allows to improve communication, not only within the maintenance service to avoid delays in repairs, successive replacements of a same spare part, etc., but also with other departments of the company (production, purchasing, etc.).
A more precise and effective monitoring of the equipment
Furthermore, studies on the topic - not many though - enabled to determine that most of the incidents are related to work equipment. Next gen solutions allow to evaluate the criticality of the equipment for all the operators, and also to foresee inherent risks to certain machines: challenging environment, conditions of intervention, etc.
Next gen solutions such as Mobility Work are using the power of IoT (RFID, NFC) to offer very powerful features to their clients, including: equipment geolocation, tools and spare parts. This allows technicians to gain efficiency, time, and to avoid useless research and movements in potentially harmful locations.
Next-gen CMMS is a critical tool for predictive maintenance
Last but not least, Mobility Work offers a powerful analytical tool which allows to implement a predictive maintenance strategy within the plant. Most accident mentioned before usually occur during corrective operations (repairs), due to the exceptional nature of the interventions. Statistically, the number of accidents as part of corrective maintenance is twice as high as in preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance allows to anticipate the failure, and to intervene even before reaching the critical point after which manipulating or operating on the equipment would be a potential threat for the operator.
Efficient CMMS solutions such as Mobility Work, the first online maintenance management platform, allows you to implement an ultra-efficient preventive maintenance strategy in your plant, and to quickly improve maintenance routines: efficiency, process, communication, safety, etc.