Safety needs to be a priority in any business, especially those that operate in the industrial sector. Working around heavy machinery, mechanical equipment, and potentially harmful fluids means being aware of and preventing hazards are a part of daily operations. That means it is critical to have safety protocols for managing your equipment during use as well as periods of maintenance.
Equipment that is not properly maintained can deteriorate rapidly, but you can’t just let someone jump in to make repairs or handle routine upkeep without following certain steps. To help ensure your safety protocols are sound, here are some initial points to consider when developing internal procedures.
1. Create Schedules
Many pieces of industrial equipment require maintenance on a specific schedule, often as recommended by the manufacturer. Since these requirements are often based on either operating time or a specific number of days, they can often be scheduled in advance.
Having a schedule created and published helps keep management and employees aware of any upcoming service, which can be a helpful first step in the overall safety protocols for managing your equipment. This means everyone knows when equipment will be offline or unavailable well before the event takes place, giving them a chance to prepare as required for the downtime.
For example, if a particular flowmeter is scheduled for recalibration, workers will know that any operations that require fluid to be moved through or distributed from the pipe it is associated with may be unavailable, allowing them to adjust accordingly.
2. Lockout/Tagout and Powering Down
Depending on your industry and the equipment involved, having a lockout/tagout procedure as part of your safety protocols for managing your equipment may be ideal. This involves using devices designed to energetically isolate the equipment being maintained, bring it to a zero-energy state before the work begins. This ensures no energy is stored in the equipment, preventing it from causing harm when trained personnel repair the equipment or perform routine upkeep.
For example, if the right flowrate isn’t coming through a flowmeter, a nearby pump could be responsible. Before the pump should be examined or dismantled, a lockout/tagout can be performed when necessary to bring it to a zero-energy state. That way, it can’t accidentally be started by another employee in the area, risking physical harm should the mechanical components fire up while someone has a hand or tool inside the equipment, and limiting the risk of electrical energy discharge that could cause harm.
Regardless of whether the maintenance is scheduled or has to be completed spontaneously, following a lockout/tagout procedure should be part of the safety protocols for managing your equipment as a way to limit the risk associated with the work and control hazardous energy that could otherwise be present.
3. Calibrate Flowmeters
Improper calibration of any flowmeters in use presents a risk. For example, combustion engines require flowmeters to manage air and fuel mixtures. If the mix isn’t correct, it can cause damage to the engine or cause a failure. If a person is using the equipment when the damage or failure occurs, they could be harmed when it stops operating as expected.
In cases where the flowmeter is managing the rate of flow of hazardous chemicals or fluids, especially when being dispensed into a container to a max fill point, can lead to an overflow. Not only can this damage any materials or surfaces the fluid contacts, but it can also be dangerous to any workers nearby if the fluid poses a risk to people.
Calibration procedures need to be followed as recommended by the manufacturer or whenever the readings appear to be inaccurate. That way, the operations are known to meet any national standards associated with the activity and the risk of harm is kept as low as possible.
4. Watch Tires
If your company uses transportation equipment with tires, it is vital to keep them properly inflated. At times, it can be easy to forget the simpler forms of maintenance, but this should be part of your official safety protocols for managing your equipment just as much as any mechanical processes and procedures.
Poorly inflated tires make the equipment harder to steer even if they remain intact. This can increase the chance of an accident due to hitting an obstacle unexpectedly. Additionally, tires that aren’t at the proper level, either over or underinflated, could be more likely to fail and have numerous other disadvantages. A flat tire can lead to a loss of control over the equipment and may lead to a crash. Depending on the materials being transported, an additional hazard could be created by spilled fluids or other materials. Further, if other equipment is damaged due to being hit by the equipment, other issues like fire, mechanical failures, or electrical shorts could also occur.
Taking the time to monitor the amount of air in all tires can limit these risks. Plus, it is easier to spot early signs of damage or wear and tear when they are examined on a regular basis.
5. Regular Training and Safety Meetings
One method to ensure everyone on a job site is working in a safe manner is to have regular training and meetings regarding safety protocols for managing your equipment. This gives you an opportunity to review critical parts of your procedures on a frequent basis, ensuring everyone is well apprised of safety-related best practices. Additionally, you can go over any new safety protocols that may be developed.
Safety meetings can also serve as an opportunity for employees to discuss any issues or incidents they have seen or experienced on the job. This keeps everyone aware of recent accidents or risks and gives management a chance to cover information regarding how to handle them in the future.
Ideally, safety should be on the mind of every company at all times. While every industry is different, having concrete policies in place is an important step to creating a workplace that ensures no one is put at risk unnecessarily. Every piece of equipment in use should have safety protocols regarding their use and management. That way, you can rest assured knowing everyone is informed and working as safely as possible at all time.