Workplace machinery and structures must be regularly maintained to ensure the safety of staff and the public, but the maintenance work itself can be particularly hazardous, a European agency has said in outlining 11 ways to reduce the risks.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) says in a new report that maintenance is a high-risk activity that accounts for about one in five workplace accidents, and up to 15 per cent of occupational deaths.
Work-related diseases such asbestosis, cancer, hearing loss and musculoskeletal disorders have also been linked to maintenance, it says.
According to EU-OSHA, key "success factors" in the prevention of risks during maintenance work include:
1 Management commitment
Management commitment is one of the "most important" determinants of an organisation's safety culture, and produces higher levels of motivation for health and safety among employees. Employee participation - workers often know practical ways of eliminating or mitigating risks. Involving employees in OHS management is critical to building "ownership" of safety at all levels.
2 Risk assessments -
Risk assessments should be carried out in consultation with workers before - and during, if necessary - all maintenance tasks.
3 The prevention hierarchy -
Preventative measures for all risks identified in the assessment must be identified and implemented by applying the hierarchy of controls (elimination first, followed by substitution, engineering, administrative controls and PPE).
4 A combination of preventative measures -
Risk assessments and safe systems of work should be supported by behavioural safety initiatives, training and information.
5 Clear guidelines -
Safe work procedures must be clear and include provisions for unexpected events. Employers should be directed to stop work when faced with unforeseen problems.
6 Continuous communication -
ll relevant information related to maintenance work must be shared between all parties, including maintenance workers, those affected by the task (such as production staff) and workers in the vicinity.
7 Continuous improvement -
Maintenance work should be continuously evaluated and improved based on safety audits, inspections, incident investigations and feedback from employees, contractors and OHS personnel.
8 Safety training -
Employees and contractors performing maintenance work must be competent in their professions, and receive adequate health and safety training.
10 A broad health and safety management system -
Maintenance tasks and their health and safety aspects should be an integral part of a company's comprehensive health and safety management system.
11 Prevention through design -
Address maintenance-related risks in the design process of buildings, structures, work environments, materials and plant.