Maintenance Connection – How Maintainers Can Work More Safely

by Ken Bannister Plant Engineering and Maintenance
Posted 09/13/2004

Because maintenance departments are often recognized as caretakers of company safety initiatives, they’re inundated with all things safety: messages, procedures, meetings, checks, equipment, training and permits, etc. Despite their good intentions, however, some maintenance professionals still get hurt on the job. To understand why, we need only to draw a parallel with automobile accidents.

Automobiles have never been safer or more reliable. Improved driver training and awareness programs, safety systems and devices (i.e. air bags, anti-roll protection, safety glass and anti-lock brakes) help to reduce or prevent accidents. Nonetheless, motorists still crash and get hurt at an alarming rate. The simple answer is distraction.

When you’re driving or on the job, do you find your mind wandering from the task at hand, sometimes becoming angry or agitated? Unfortunately, fast-paced living, high self-expectations, poor diet and sleep patterns, relationship problems and increased workload dramatically increase personal stress levels. This makes for distracted drivers and workers.

Manage Risk

Personal safety is a combination of understanding, managed risk, common sense and, above all, frame of mind. Adhering to the common statement: “Safety starts with you!” is the first step. You want to work safely, as your wellness is important. The company will also benefit through raising your safety awareness.

For maintainers, this can be an exciting process. Taking a first-aid/CPR course or joining a work-emergency response team allows an individual to make a difference and have fun. Maintenance professionals are able to broaden their knowledge of safety training.

Some maintainers work in potentially hazardous environments. The risk is managed through understanding the consequences of failure and being competent in the response to those failures. To work safely and reduce injuries, maintenance professionals must understand the plant environment and manufacturing processes. This will reduce failure occurrences.

You should also learn to recognize both normal and abnormal equipment behaviour, and check material safety data sheets. As for production and maintenance materials, you need to know what you’re handling. Also, being trained in confined-space management is futile if you can’t recognize true or marginal confined space in the workplace without an identification signpost.

As well, it’s important to know how to operate an emergency washstation and where they’re located in the plant. The bottom line is that managing safety risk is a combination of understanding and knowledge. Developing and using a common-sense approach to manage stressful and dangerous situations is determined by an individual’s clear frame of mind and ability to focus on the task.

To create safe workplaces, more companies are emphasizing the overall wellness of workers. These organizations realize that an individual’s mental and physical health is a top priority. The result is that safety drives a plant’s culture. In doing so, a healthy, safe and productive workforce reaps many benefits for management.

Stay fit

Companies now provide opportunities for their employees to elevate personal-fitness levels by offering different workplace programs (i.e. fitness memberships, competitive sports, meditation and healthier and lighter cuisines in the cafeteria). It’s proven that exercise and relief programs reduce stress and improve a person’s physical health.

Programs that deal with increasing mental health issues are also gaining acceptance in the corporate world (i.e. workplace daycare facilities, personal counselling, education and general-training programs). Company wellness committees are becoming as prevalent as health and safety committees.

Remember that a healthy and safe attitude towards work requires developing a true connection with oneself. Health and safety is a personal issue and everyone’s responsibility. Get involved and stay connected. So, how do you feel today?

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