A good preventive maintenance program backed by the right CMMS solution always saves you time, money, and frustration. As soon as you're ahead of the maintenance curve, you start catching small issues before they grow into costly headaches. But this holiday season—right now—is the perfect time to start using PMs to save the maintenance department and yourself from the heartache of preventable accidents.
Safe work procedures for maintenance teams
For many, holidays are traditionally a terrific time to take a step back from work to focus on family and friends. But statistically, it's also a terrible time for accidents. Thanksgiving is the number one day for fires caused by home cooking. Next are Christmas Day, the day before Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve.
Many of these holiday accidents are preventable with a little planning and preparation. The solution is a quick, daily preventive maintenance task (PM) for Christmas trees: keep the tree watered properly.
But what about for your facility? What could the maintenance department at work be doing right now to reduce risk and avoid accidents?
Use operations to avoid preventable accidents at your facility
It's a year-round, multi-step process, but now's the perfect time to start. Your first step can be breaking safety into two categories: in-house and third-party tasks. There are things the maintenance team can do by itself to make your facility and assets safer. But there are also projects the team can't safely or legally tackle on its own. For those, you need to bring in professionals with the right training, equipment, and licenses. For example, you have people on the team who can easily change out a busted light switch. But when you need to replace a fuse box with up-to-code wiring and breakers, if you don't have them on staff, it's time to call in electricians with all the right paperwork.
Good CMMS software helps with both types of PMs. Let's start by looking at in-house preventive maintenance tasks.
Schedule operational safety maintenance
You should already have a year-round safety program in place, but you can often get in some extra work or do some catch-up projects around the holidays. It varies across industries, but for a lot of places, there are fewer shifts and fewer people close to the end of the year, and that means it's easier to get to assets without having to schedule around other departments. When the line stops and all the operators go home, maintenance techs can freely carry out inspections and work on equipment.
Maintenance around the facility
Start by walking around the facility and looking for hazards related to falls and foreign objects. Your checklist can include:
- Cleaning up broken glass or debris on walkways or in the parking lot
- Checking for broken or improperly fitted doors and windows
- Looking for problem areas on the roof like ice build-ups or loose gutters
- Inspecting the facade for loose or damaged sections that pose a falling hazard
- Testing all exterior lighting, double-checking that it's not only in good working order but also sufficient to illuminate hazards and dissuade theft and vandalism
Also, make sure to look closely at the surrounding trees for any branches that look like they're getting ready to break. Make sure there are no branches near electrical or service lines or hanging over walkways or parking spots. If you find branches that you want to remove, call in professionals, especially when they're near electrical or service lines.
Maintenance inside the facility
Inside, stay on the look-out for potential hazards. Your checklist can include:
- Checking equipment safety guards for loose or improperly installed sections
- Testing equipment safety switches and disconnects for faults
- Restocking all first aid kits with fresh supplies as needed
- Confirming eyewash stations and bottles are full and in good working order
- Testing all alarms and detectors, including for smoke and carbon monoxide
Make sure to check everywhere for leaks. Water damage on the ceiling is a sign of issues with the roof. Puddles on the floor could be related to structural issues, while unexpected liquid under an asset or equipment suggests broken seals. Leaks are not only a sign of bigger problems but also potential slipping hazards. Investigate them immediately.
Schedule fire suppression safety maintenance
Before even getting started on this topic, it's important to remember two things about fire suppression. One, many standards and best practices are covered by laws and regulations with strict compliance requirements, backed by hefty fines. Two, every area has its own sets of laws and regulations. There's likely a lot of overlap, but every area can have important differences.
That means you need to find local licensed professionals who can walk you through the process of getting set up and staying compliant. Your organization should have an in-house advocate, someone who learns as much as possible about fire safety and champions the organization's fire-safety program. But that's not enough. You also need third-party professionals.
A fire suppression expert can tell you which of the four types of portable fire extinguishers you need for each location in your facility, how far they need to be from likely locations for fires, and how much and what sort of training staff requires. According to the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), portable fire extinguishers must be inspected on a set schedule per 29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2). The inspection and maintenance requirements differ for each type of fire extinguisher, and a professional can make sure you're doing everything correctly.
That said, you can also think about setting up a schedule of supplemental visual inspections for the maintenance team.
In the PM, have technicians confirm:
- Extinguishers are in their assigned locations
- No obvious damage occurred
- No obstructions are blocking the extinguishers from view or easy access
- Extinguishers are charged and operational
- Pressure gauges read adequate pressure
- Pin and seals are intact and in place
- Nozzles are free of any blockage
- Related signage is intact and visible
This list is likely just a starting point for what you need to check. Again, seek the advice of professionals when setting up your overall program and any associated in-house PMs.
CMMS software makes safety maintenance easier
The trick to a good preventive maintenance plan is getting the right information at the right time to the right people. When you're struggling with paper- or spreadsheet-based methods, all three are at best a lot of work, at worst prone to error and failure.
With paper, it's hard even to get the right data on the PM. How much can you manage to fit on a single piece of paper? Not much. Then you have to chase down the assigned tech or wait for them to double-back to the office to pick up the paperwork. When they leave the office, they're walking out the door with the only copy of that data.
With spreadsheets, you have the opposite problem. Instead of quickly losing data, you soon end up with too much of it. Every time someone sends a spreadsheet as an email attachment, they're creating a new copy. And as soon as anyone makes any changes to one of those copies, you have two disconnected versions. No one knows it, but everyone is now working from different data.
CMMS software solves these problems with a central database accessible from anywhere, at any time. All the data is kept in one place, safe, secure, and updated in real time. You get the right information to the right people at the right time.
CMMS software delivers the right information
With good preventive maintenance software, it's easy to pack PMs with everything technicians need to work efficiently, including:
- Comprehensive asset information
- Maintenance and repair histories
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Associated parts and materials
- Digital images, schematics, O&M manuals, and warranties
- Interactive site maps and floor plans
For safety inspections, the customizable checklists are especially helpful. Technicians have a clear list of things to check, and if the asset or equipment fails, they can use the software to either quickly submit a request for a related work order or directly generate one themselves. Interactive site maps and floor plans are perfect for checking first aid stations or visually inspecting fire extinguishers. Instead of wandering around looking for the equipment, technicians move in straight, efficient lines directly to where they need to be. They can also use the maps to confirm the equipment hasn't been moved and is where it needs to be.
All this information can be saved in templates, which you can then use when setting up new PMs. For example, you can create detailed instructions on how to check and resupply first aid kits, including information on which items to look for and how to check their expiration dates. Once you've saved it as a template, you can add the instructions to other work orders and PMs with just a few clicks.
CMMS software connects the right people
Traditional methods make it hard to keep everyone in the loop. A modern preventive maintenance solution makes it easy, especially when techs have a mobile maintenance app.
Instead of having to walk around the facility trying to find them or waiting for them to check their email, you can use the software to send them a push notification on their mobile device. As soon as they're assigned a new PM, a message appears on their mobile device's screen, and they can then use the app to access the PM instantly.
A good mobile maintenance app also makes it easy for techs to send information back. For example, they can take a picture with their mobile device and directly upload the image to the PM. They can also add comments to individual tasks, explaining why they took a specific action or asking for clarification. The app creates a clear, two-way channel of communication between the techs and the maintenance lead.
CMMS software generates PMs at the right time
Once you have your PMs set in the software, they generate for you automatically. For safety-related PMs, in most cases, you set them according to the date. For example, you might set a monthly PM to check all the external lights at your facility, paying special attention to the ones around the parking areas. But you could also set PMs according to meter, and in that case, they only generate after an asset or piece of equipment has done a predetermined set of cycles.
Regardless of how you set them up, you don't have to worry about remembering them once they're in the software. The CMMS does all the remembering for you.
CMMS software makes third-party safety maintenance easier
For in-house PMs, preventive maintenance software creates a clear channel of communication where techs and leads can easily share information. And for third-party work, the software does the same thing.
And when you use a CMMS to generate, assign, and track work for third parties, you have complete, reliable records, which is critical in the case of fire suppression. According to OSHA regulation 1910.157(e)(3), "... the employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Assistant Secretary upon request."
Remember, compliance always has two parts. The first is getting the work done properly and on time. The second is being able to prove you got the work done properly and on time. With scraps of paper and a bunch of spreadsheets spread out on a bunch of random email attachments, it's very difficult to prove what got done and when. With the right PM solution, it's easy because the software does all the tracking and remembering for you.
It's time to start making good on that New Year's resolution and finally take control of your preventive maintenance.