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January 15, 2013

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Plant-downtime pressures are a threat to good maintenance, warns industry

Maintenance standards are in danger of being compromised because of the pressure to reduce plant downtime, according to more than a third of maintenance professionals questioned in a survey.

Conducted by Maintec – a trade show for maintenance, plant and asset management professionals – the survey quizzed 176 maintenance engineers and managers on their views about health and safety. While the feedback showed that health and safety is a big priority for 85 per cent of organizations surveyed, with 63 per cent saying it couldn’t be any more important, efforts to maintain standards are coming under pressure.

Almost a quarter of respondents believe that maintenance is a source of many accidents because unrealistic time pressures are placed on projects.

Nearly half of maintenance engineers surveyed (47 per cent) described the activity as hazardous, regardless of time pressures, because it generally occurs outside the normal routine. Just over a third (34 per cent) said it is because it involves outside contractors who operate to different standards; almost one in four (24 per cent) feel it’s because their own staff don’t have a health and safety mindset, and 21 per cent think that workers cut corners.

Just over a fifth of respondents believe the general perception of health and safety among employees in their company is that it is a hindrance to their job; 13 per cent see it as a necessary evil; and 5 per cent described it as a fuss about nothing. However, more than half (52 per cent) said their workforce sees health and safety as really important.

The study also throws light on the most common sources of incidents during maintenance. Respondents cited the biggest risks as falls from height (51 per cent), disturbing asbestos (47 per cent), heavy falling objects (46 per cent), and failing to follow isolation procedures (45 per cent). Communicating and managing contractors also featured high on the list of concerns.

Despite these challenges, many companies have made good progress, with 36 per cent witnessing a decrease in maintenance-related incidents in the past year. Thirty-seven per cent have seen no improvement and 6 per cent have experienced a rise in incidents.

Almost all companies list health and safety improvement as a priority, but for many different reasons. The top driver is corporate social responsibility (36 per cent), followed by a need to reduce accidents (15 per cent), responding to boardroom pressure (11 per cent), and a desire to improve staff productivity (11 per cent). Not a single maintenance professional cited unions as the biggest driver for better health and safety in their organisation.

Maintec 2013 takes place from 5 to7 March at the NEC, Birmingham. For more information, visit www.easyFairs.com/MAINTECUK

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