Plant and Equipment Maintenance Guide
Plant and equipment maintenance is crucial for making sure everything is working as it should, and for preventing any problems. It forms an important part of any construction project, especially as it may be required at short notice if a breakdown occurs on site.
All those involved in a construction project should know the basics of maintaining plant and equipment – especially as it can involve a number of non-routine tasks that can increase risk. Read on to find out more about maintaining plant and equipment, and what steps need to be followed to ensure safe practice and care of heavy machinery.
Increasing Reliability and Safety with Plant and Equipment Maintenance
The primary reason for maintaining plant and equipment is to maximise reliability. This is hugely beneficial for reducing costs and for ensuring a project is completed efficiently and to the deadline. Fewer breakdowns of plant and equipment will also reduce the risk of any potential hazards. Faulty and unreliable machinery can be very dangerous, and the likelihood of accidents occurring on site is greatly increased.
Under the Provision and Use of Work and Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), all work equipment and plant needs to be maintained so it is safe at all times. Significantly, the act also highlights the importance of carrying out maintenance operations safely. Incorrect planning and unsafe maintenance procedures can lead to serious injuries and at worse, fatalities – for both those involved in the maintenance, and for those using the machinery on site.
Identifying Hazards to Ensure Effective Plant and Equipment Maintenance
Any employer providing equipment for construction projects needs to ensure arrangements are in place for safe and effective maintenance procedures. There are a number of different hazards associated with plant and equipment use, and knowing what these are can help with the implementation of a successful maintenance programme.
This is particularly important for projects involving contractors who may be unfamiliar with the site. A solid maintenance programme is also essential for times when maintenance may involve working at a height or accessing unusual parts of a building. If at any time maintenance workers are entering confined spaces, or vessels where there are toxic materials and limited oxygen, a well-prepared plan can ensure everyone has clear instructions on the task.
Think about the types of hazards that could occur if any of the following happens:
- Material falls off the plant.
- Machinery starts unexpectedly.
- The plant, or parts of the plant, disintegrates.
- Workers are exposed to chemicals.
Our Plant and Equipment Hazard Checklist is an in-depth guide to the types of hazards associated with plant and equipment use. Understanding what these are can also help with the reporting procedure followed by maintenance workers to identify any problems while working on machinery.
How to Establish a Maintenance Programme
There are several important things to consider when establishing a maintenance programme for plant and equipment.
- At this stage, you need to decide if the maintenance should be carried out by your team, or outsourced to specialist contractors. It’s crucial that you only take on maintenance that you are competent of completing efficiently.
- Using the instructions provided by the equipment manufacturer, carefully plan what maintenance will be carried out. This will reduce risks and prevent any unforeseen delays.
- Make sure maintenance staff are properly kitted out with appropriate clothing and are competent enough to safely carry out maintenance procedures.
- Try to plan for maintenance to be carried out during downtime and before start-up. This will eliminate the difficulties in coordinating production work and maintenance simultaneously.
Identify Safe Working Areas
- It’s crucial that you ensure safe access and a safe place of work during maintenance.
- You need to ensure the safety of maintenance workers, and that of anyone else on site who may be effected by their activities.
- Barriers and signs should be erected, and key people should be placed around the site to ensure other people are kept at a distance during maintenance.
Making Sure Plant and Equipment is Safe
- Prior to maintenance, you need to make sure that all moving plant is stationary and equipment is turned off.
- All electrical and power supplies must be isolated and if maintenance work is being carried out close to uninsulated electrical conductors, the power should be cut.
- Any plant or pipelines containing hazardous material such as pressurised gas, steam or fluid should be isolated. Valves should be locked off.
Other Safety Factors To Consider Before Maintenance Begins
- Any parts of a plant that could fall (i.e. guillotines or blades) need to be fully supported.
- Components that operate at high temperatures need time to cool down.
- Mobile plant needs to be placed in neutral gear with the brake applied and wheels stabilised.
- Any vessels containing flammable liquids, solids, dusts or gases need to be properly cleaned. Carry out extra checks if hot work is to be carried out during maintenance.
- Any vessels containing toxic materials need to be cleaned and checked.
- Make sure any stored energy is released from your plant or equipment. Compressed air, for example, could cause the machinery to move if released.
Plant and equipment hire is a reliable solution that completely removes the headache of maintenance planning and procedures. At H.McGovern & Son, we’re specialists in providing operated and non-operated solutions to save businesses valuable time and money. Find out more on our Plant Hire & Services page.