Machine maintenance: assessment of specific risks and prevention

& horbar; A guide focuses on the risks associated with machines and maintenance to maintain their safety. Focus on risks associated with maintenance activities, on the risk assessment and on the procedures for reactivating the machines

Maintenance, if performed regularly, is an essential element in maintaining the efficiency and safety of equipment and machinery over time.
In the workplace today, there are many fatal accidents associated with significant maintenance deficiencies.
There are also many accidents during maintenance interventions. Maintenance can therefore only be considered as a high-risk activity, which must be carried out with adequate protection for both the employees and the operators present at the place where it is carried out.

To remind you of the risks of maintenance activities, the document “Safe use of machines. Guide for companies” is produced by ATS Brianza.
In the document, we focus on maintaining the security of machines and systems over time. The report also provides useful considerations and indications of risks associated with maintenance activities.

Specific risks of maintenance activities

The document emphasizes that in addition to the normal risks associated with any work environment, “during maintenance operations, workers are exposed to some specific risks. For example, when maintaining a machinery that is part of a production line, it may be necessary, during the execution of a process, to operate in the vicinity of moving parts or active elements in tension.“.

During normal operation of the machine “are the safety devices that reduce the likelihood of a human error that can lead to accidents, while under the conditions where workers perform the maintenance work, the likelihood of there being direct contact between the worker and the organs in motion or living parts is higher. For this reason, it is advisable that the limits of action for each worker be identified by providing at least one person who is responsible for the maintenance of the machines / systems and who possesses sufficient skills.“.

The ATS Wizard then reports that:

  • maintenance often “involves unusual work or non-routine activities and is often performed under unusual conditions, such as work in cramped spaces.;
  • maintenance operations could involve disassembly and reassembly of complex equipment: in similar situations, the risk of human error and the risk of accidents increase;
  • in some productive realities, times to perform maintenance must necessarily be reduced, especially in the case of braking or stopping production: in similar cases, repairs and restoration of production become high-priority activities and workers have to operate under time pressure;“.

The risk assessment for maintenance operations – the document continues – “this is a particularly difficult task due to the uncertainty of the maintenance work; it is actually possible to have to start a particular corrective maintenance intervention and discover that further unforeseen interventions are needed. For this reason, it is appropriate to involve the same workers who carry out maintenance activities in the risk assessment process.“.

Yes “without the contribution of those performing the work, it is difficult to identify all the hazards, analyze the various aspects of the work and the situations that could arise and decide on the most effective and appropriate methods to prevent and control the risk.“.

In addition, it would be useful to ensure that for each maintenance operation to be performed, “a special form that gives the employee an overview of the results of the risk assessment for the job in question and summarizes all the risks that may be present;“.

Restart of machinery and preventive measures

In these cases, the identification and use of preventive measures concerning maintenance activities of machines / plants assigned to the various company figures.

Among the most important measures under maintenance, according to the document “proper control of the keys on the machine is necessary“.

In fact, it has been reported that “one of the main causes of accidents and injuries during the maintenance or cleaning phases of a machine or system is accidental or unexpected reactivation of energy sources;“.
To protect workers from hazardous energy sources during such operations, a procedure developed by OSHA has proven effective. The procedure, known as lockout / tagout, sets out the criteria and working methods to be implemented for:

  • identify hazardous energy sources;
  • isolate and / or dissipate these energies;
  • continue to stop and restart a machine safely.

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