The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Controlling for Human Error During Maintenance

Graham Marshall - Friday, April 26, 2013
Maintaining equipment is one of the most critical risk control measures available to any work place.

And  a lack of maintenance, or errors during maintenance activities can create underlying triggers which may contribute to accidental hazard release later on. 

For example, when servicing an elevating work platform, a maintenance technician could forget to install the appropriate counter-balance water within the tyres of the EWP. 

This error may go undetected until the EWP is raised into position for use, with potentially disastrous consequences for the operator if the EWP tips over.

There are a number of solutions that can eliminate or minimize the potential for maintenance error. 

For example, the development of appropriate maintenance procedures; alongside a program to ensure that the actual procedures are read and applied by those responsible for the work can go along way to minimizing risk.

Adequate personnel resourcing is also important to ensure that there are enough people to undertake maintenance work.

The following additional strategies can also assist in minimizing and mitigating maintenance error:

   Allow enough time for maintenance task completion;

   Scheduling should allow for effective diagnosis and problem-solving, and reduce the likelihood of corner-cutting or memory lapses;

   Eliminate mid-task interruptions of maintenance technicians. Mid-task interruptions can cause maintenance technicians to forget their location in the Procedure, and consequently to miss critical steps;

   Avoid ‘bumping’ maintenance personnel in favour of production-related project personnel;

   Increased maintenance backlog is likely to lead to real or perceived time pressure, increasing the likelihood of error;

   Further, this practice may lead to a workforce perception of an overriding production priority, which may then negatively influence workforce risk management behaviour;

   Develop a quality assurance process within each Procedure to be implemented for all maintenance tasks;

   These processes should allow for a detailed review and audit of all work completed within the maintenance task, including steps completed, equipment used/installed, and checks conducted by the original technician. At Risk Tool Box, we always include an audit protocol for each Procedure we develop;

   Assign such quality assurance tasks to more experienced technicians, and prioritize these tasks over others; and

   Allow extra time for the Audit program to promote thorough and detailed procedure review.
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