How Equipment and Machine Health Impact Worker’s Safety

Bryan Christiansen, Founder & CEO at Limble CMMS
Equipment reliability is defined as the probability that the equipment will successfully perform its intended function without failure, under specified operating environment and operating conditions, for a specified period of time. Worker safety can be defined as a function of the operating environment, the individual, and equipment reliability.

Bryan Christiansen, Founder & CEO at Limble CMMS*

According to the US National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. Times of India reports that a study by The British Safety Council concludes that there are as many as 48,000 workplace fatalities in India per year, 24% of which are in the construction industry. These numbers truly are staggering, and the worst part is that the vast majority of these incidences are very well preventable. Taking preventative action can spare workers and their families from unnecessary pain and suffering.

On the business side of things, workers’ compensation premiums and potential fines and legal fees, which correlate directly to accident and incident rate, amount to millions of dollars per year, in even a modest-sized company. Additionally, companies spend substantial resources training workers, and lost time accidents put a serious dent on those efforts.

For an additional perspective, consider the facts below:
  • The average cost to industry for a fatal accident ranges from a low estimate of $1.27 million to the enormous figure of $8.6 million per fatality paid out by BP following its refinery explosion [US National Safety Council].
  • The average payout cost for businesses for a permanent disability is $1.3 million, while a partial disability is $210,000 [US Air Force].
  • 6 million workers suffer non-fatal workplace injuries at an annual cost of $125 billion to U.S. businesses [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and $27 billion to Canadian businesses [Government of Canada].
  • The median days away from work due to injuries and illnesses for goods-producing industries is 9 days each year, with more than 25% days-away-from-work cases at 31 days or more [US Bureau of Labor Statistics].
Whichever perspective you take, and irrespective of geographical locations, workplace accidents are extremely expensive for businesses.

Risk Identification
Universally, from a legal standpoint, employers are responsible for protecting workers from hazards involving the operation of machinery and equipment. That can be either in the form of a safe operating environment or providing workers with necessary personal protective equipment, as per prescribed codes and regulations.

Risks, or hazards, associated with working near or on machinery vary, depending on the exact equipment being used and can include, but not limited to, the following:
  • Contact with or struck by moving equipment (e.g. entanglement, friction, abrasion, cutting, severing, shearing, stabbing, puncturing, impact, crushing, falling objects, drawing-in or trapping).
  • Contact with pressurized gas or liquid (e.g. hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, compressed air, paint sprayers).
  • Contact with harmful chemicals or biological hazards.
  • Contact with harmful noise, radiation, or vibration.
  • Contact with harmful energy source (e.g. electricity, electromagnetic, heat, fire, cold).
From the list above, it is quite evident that each of the risks identified is heavily reliant on equipment and machinery health and reliability.

A few common examples of worker safety risk that is driven by poor equipment reliability are:
  • Slips, trips and falls from equipment leaks and spills, temporary hoses and pipes.
  • Electrocution from poorly maintained electrical grounding systems and power tools.
  • Fire and explosion hazards stemming from poor configuration management and equipment maintenance practices.
  • Exposure to energy sources due to failure of poorly maintained safety systems.
Risk Assessment
Risk is defined as the product of Severity and Probability of the injury occurring.

Severity can be determined by answering two questions:
  • What type(s) of hazard is involved?
  • What type(s) of injury could happen?
Probability can be determined by reviewing the equipment’s operating information such as:
  • OEM safety information
  • Potential human performance errors while performing these tasks
  • History of equipment failure
Once risks have been identified at the workplace, risk rating should be determined for each type of potential injury by assuming no protective measures have been installed on the machine. This evaluation helps determine if adequate action has been taken to prevent injury.

Risk Controls – Duties and Responsibilities
Each work group within an organization, including management and leadership, have their part to play in due diligence to successfully permeate the safety culture through the business. Constructors, employers, supervisors, and workers have an equal stake towards mitigating and addressing the risk by upholding excellence in equipment and machinery reliability.

Risk mitigation controls typically have a graded approach through elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), in order of decreasing effectiveness.

As outlined by the Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), some of the main duties and responsibilities towards upholding equipment reliability that play a key role towards risk mitigation controls for workplace injury are outlined below by work group:

Risk Mitigation Controls

  • Planning, organizing, and executing projects to avoid or reduce the unintended reversing of operating equipment and machinery.
  • Reporting adverse field conditions, including equipment and machinery reliability issues, promptly to employer/supervisor.
  • Establishing written procedures to be adhered to during normal activities as well as during emergencies, reviewing those procedures with the project’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or Health and Safety Representative (HSR), as applicable.
  • Conducting Pre-Job Brief and/or Job Site Drill before operating equipment and machinery for every shift change or incoming crew.
  • Providing PPE, information, instruction, and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety.
  • Ensuring workers are adequately trained and qualified to perform job duties
  • Ensuring good housekeeping practices including, but not limited to, management of safe work areas and temporary equipment and material staging.
  • Ensuring implementation of Reliability Centre Maintenance (RCM) approach to asset management; failure prevention or managed failures reduce the requirement for unplanned equipment maintenance, reducing worker’s exposure to risk.
  • Ensuring required measures and procedures are carried out in the workplace, for routine operations as well as emergency protocols.
  • Ensuring proper change control, configuration management, and traceability of procedures, equipment status and configuration.
  • Ensuring required equipment, materials, and protective devices are provided and maintained in good working condition.
  • Ensuring sufficient room is provided around equipment and machinery to safely perform work.
  • Implementing Engineering Controls and Design Barriers to safety hazard (e.g. safety devices, machine guarding).
  • Implementing Administrative Barriers to safety hazard (e.g. procedural control, peer review and verification).
  • Ensuring workers adhere to required safety standards and procedures.
  • Ensuring any equipment, protective devices or PPE required by the employer is worn/used by workers.
  • Advising workers of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor through Pre-Job Briefs.
  • Providing workers with any prescribed written instructions about measures and procedures to be taken for the workers’ protection, including but not limited to Safe Work Plan (SWP) and Job Safety Analysis (JSA).
  • Creating standard operating procedures, preventive maintenance checklists, and other guidelines that can guide the maintenance team to do their work properly.
  • Inspecting, at least once a week or more frequently, all machinery and equipment, communication systems, and means of access and egress to and from the worksite.
  • Following lockout-tagout and de-energization protocols.
  • Using/operating equipment in a safe manner.
  • Ensuring that all cutting tools and blades are clean and sharp and are able to cut freely without applying excessive force.
  • Reporting adverse field conditions, including equipment and machinery reliability issues and workplace hazards, promptly to employer/supervisor.
  • Keeping and maintaining a clean job site.
Equipment that are designed, installed, operated and maintained properly are more reliable and less likely to fail and create a situation that could expose personnel to hazards.

One of the fundamental tenets of Equipment Reliability is Reliability Centered Maintenance which is a comprehensive life cycle asset management process that governs the entire life of operating equipment – from conceptual design through operating to decommissioning and disposal. Reliability Centered Maintenance also includes failure-prevention-driven asset maintenance plans that combine best practices in preventive and predictive maintenance that assure minimal potential for adverse events that could lead to construction workplace hazard exposure to workers and personnel

The study by The British Safety Council also observed that as many as 38 fatal workplace accidents take place every day in the construction sector in India, and that the fatality rate is 20 times higher than that of Britain, noting that India is currently in a similar position to where Britain was 50 years ago in terms of accident rates at work.

An equipment reliability centered maintenance approach to safety and health program protects assets as well as construction progress. It returns a consistent and predictable result within specified control limits, and has the potential to end age-old conundrum of productivity versus safety conundrum, and can fast-track the move towards a safer construction workplace without compromising project success.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations
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