MaintenanceA friend of mine was sharing his thoughts with me about the recent engine failure of a commercial airline jet. While I was interested in what he had to say, I had stayed up too late the night before. I found myself struggling to focus, half nodding and covering a yawn as he explained his theories about lack of proper maintenance contributing to the incident.  

Undeterred, he continued to describe other situations where poor maintenance had caused mechanical failure, which had contributed to accidents and in some cases even death. As I yawned again, I realized my lack of sleep was a consequence of own failure at proper self-maintenance. Other than appearing a bit rude to my friend, little harm was done. But the situation caused me to wonder: When equipment maintenance professionals are charged with such important work, are they making sure they’re performing self-maintenance first?

Properly maintaining equipment begins with an adherence to a disciplined process. Schedules for inspections, replacement of parts and periodic testing are all outlined in the manufacturers’ operating literature. However, those checklists are only effective the individual is able to follow them precisely. This discipline requires that the person be well-rested, alert and physically fit in order to perform the inspections and maintenance safely. 

I recently saw a photo with a sign that stated: "If you don't schedule proper maintenance for your equipment, the equipment will do it for you." This humorous take on preventative maintenance certainly gets the point across. But when we're talking about big equipment that may present a hazardous failure if not properly inspected, the situation sets a different tone.

By definition, reactive maintenance focuses on repairing an asset once failure occurs. Proactive maintenance, however, focuses on avoiding repairs and asset failure through preventive and predictive methods. OEMs make every effort to ensure the equipment is safe before leaving the factory. Once it is delivered to the end user, preventative maintenance is critical to not only the equipment operating efficiently, but also ensuring that no safety hazard might occur due to mechanical failure.

Like any piece of machinery, the human mind and body can become fatigued. As I've said before in other posts, safety begins with the person maintaining the equipment. Lack of sleep and proper diet can affect a person’s awareness and his or her ability to work safely.

When performing maintenance on equipment, always be sure to follow a safety program. This program may include, but is not limited to the following guidelines:

  • Don’t take drugs. 
  • Don’t perform inspections and maintenance on equipment when suffering from lack of sleep.
  • Wear proper PPE while performing maintenance procedures. Moving parts, high pressure systems and electrical conditions can present hazardous working conditions.
  • Always refer to the manufacturer’s original operating manuals and safety literature before performing any work.
  • Use the proper tools when performing maintenance. Don’t take shortcuts that could endanger you or others around you.
  • Even though technology can assist in performing proper maintenance, don't assume it will automatically reveal every potential mechanical problem that needs addressing.
  • Eat a healthy diet, as improper nutrition may contribute to drowsiness and lower your awareness.
  • Exercise. Be sure to keep muscles and circulation at maximum levels. Sluggish movement increases the chance of tripping, slipping or falling.

It’s important to remember that the proper maintenance of equipment is just as important as its safe operation. Maintenance professionals must always ensure they are working at their peak performance, because their safety – as well as that of the equipment operators – depends on it.

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