HSE stats from 2019/20 show that there were 693,000 non-fatal workplace injuries in Great Britain in just one year. While a large percentage of these were from common workplace accidents like slips and trips or manual handling accidents, it’s likely that a portion of them involved workplace equipment.
Because of its prevalence in day-to-day work tasks for so many people, looking after equipment through a strict maintenance routine should be treated as a priority no matter what industry you work in. Equipment maintenance is a process that involves several steps, including inspection, testing, measurement, replacement, and adjustment. Treating the process seriously is one way to reduce the risk of workplace accidents or injury.
There are two types of maintenance – routine and reactive. Routine maintenance is planned and preventative, whereas reactive maintenance takes place as a direct result of a problem with the equipment. Embracing both is important to keep employees safe, whatever they’re doing.
Equipment maintenance and the law
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) were drawn up in 1998. These regulations place duties upon people and companies who own, operate, or have control over work equipment.
PUWER requires that equipment provided for work is:
• Suitable for its intended use
• Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not deteriorate
• Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
• Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, like protective devices and controls like stop devices
• Used in accordance with specific requirements for mobile work equipment and power presses
PUWER regulation 5 shows that there is a duty to maintain work equipment correctly. PUWER regulation 22 says that you should take measures to manage the risks from maintenance.
Equipment maintenance guidelines
Under the guidance of PUWER and other legislation, employers and those in control of work equipment are required by law to keep it ‘maintained in an efficient state, in efficient order and in good repair’.
The maintenance that is required should be determined through a risk assessment that takes into account:
• Manufacturer recommendations
• Age of equipment and intensity of use
• Operating environment
• User knowledge and experience
• Risk to health and safety from foreseeable failure
Carrying out an equipment-focused risk assessment should help you to determine what the current condition of the equipment in your workplace is, how long it’s likely to remain in safe condition, and what steps you need to take to maintain it.
How to safely carry out equipment maintenance
Before undertaking maintenance projects, each member of staff should be properly trained and have access to the correct equipment.
Steps should always be taken to manage risk. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely undertake maintenance on equipment, and if necessary, seek the help of an expert.
Remember that appropriate measures should be taken to minimise the risk and protect workers. This includes physical measures like PPE as well as management and supervision, as well as personnel training. Equipment should always be turned off with residual energy released, and high-risk equipment should be isolated from its power supply.
HSE have developed a safe maintenance checklist with the aim of reducing injury during maintenance. It includes steps and checks such as:
• Are machines isolated before doing maintenance?
• Do staff have isolation padlocks and warning boards?
• Which equipment is right for the job?
• Do staff lift heavy loads properly?
• Is maintenance carried out in confined spaces?
• Is maintenance stopped if it isn’t being done safely?
Following the advice and guidance provided by HSE while carrying out equipment maintenance should help you to complete it safely. What’s more, it’ll also keep equipment in the best condition possible, minimising the number of workplace injuries that occur due to malfunctioning or damaged equipment.