Equipment Reliability and Safety

by Brian Frederick
December 27, 2017

Reliable equipment makes jobsites safer

Everyone’s looking for a safer jobsite. In addition to reducing costs, it’s just the right thing to do. No one wants to see someone get seriously injured, or even worse, killed.

But when it comes to job safety, one area that deserves extra attention is equipment reliability. Maintenance and reliability initiatives are of critical importance in the modern construction industry, as increasingly complex equipment has become commonplace. And the smallest failure on one machine can lead to catastrophe on the jobsite.  

The link between reliability and safety

It’s a fact: reliability drives safety, and safety drives reliability. They’re interrelated concepts.

Think about it — accidents rarely happen when everything is running smoothly. Instead, they tend to happen when chaos creeps into the jobsite. An excavator that isn’t running reliably leads to frustration on the part of the operator and other workers, and someone ignores safety protocol in effort to solve the problem. Frustration leads to unsafe actions, and that leads to injury or worse.

Or a skid steer has an oil leak that hasn’t been addressed in the name of keeping everything moving forward. The puddle it leaves on the floor leads to a slip and fall and one of your employees ends up in traction.

But it’s more than that; there’s also a philosophical relationship between the concepts of reliability and safety.

Reliability assessment analyzes hazards, failure and fault trees. The basic steps in creating a reliability assessment are identifying hazards, assessing risks, then proposing and determining the best ways to minimize these problems. Safety assessment follows the same exact steps.

Reliability is primarily focused on cost, calculating the losses caused by downtime, critical breakdowns and repairs, while safety is focused on the human aspect — preventing injury and death. But even these concepts are related. Think of the financial burden caused by injuries. Between higher insurance premiums, workers' comp payments, financial settlements and OSHA-mandated shutdowns, accidents can have a huge impact on any company’s bottom line.

How can you improve reliability to maximize safety?

The first step to ensuring hazards are minimized is to ensure your machines are operating at peak reliability. Your goal is to have fewer repairs. Think of the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In addition to preventing critical failures that can grind your entire operation to a halt, it will prevent frustrations and delays that can lead to the momentary lapses in judgement that cause so many accidents.

Improving mechanical integrity is built on a few key pillars. First you need to develop and maintain proper maintenance procedures. This could be performing routine maintenance, or even better, it could be implementing a predictive maintenance program. A tool like ES Track can help you spot potential issues before they become problems, keeping your fleet up and running, and preventing potential accidents.

Additionally, you need to make sure all your maintenance employees are adequately trained in how to maintain your fleet, and conduct regular inspections to ensure everything is in ideal condition.

By taking a few additional steps to ensure equipment reliability, you should see not only a more work-ready fleet with fewer breakdowns, but safer jobsites as well.

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