Equipment Safety Takes a Trained Eye
Maintenance of industrial trucks and other pieces of equipment is an important part of any safety program.
In my 40-year career as a mechanic, I’ve seen a shift over the past few decades where the service industry went from primarily quality service for maintenance and repair with a strict focus on safety to simply, “How do we make money?”
And that works well for a department store because you want to know what they have on sale, but it doesn’t work well when you’re talking about quality maintenance and the safety of your employees.
With this current climate, I know – I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve heard it from customers – that equipment owners end up with a gnawing anxiety wondering if their service provider is actually taking care of them when it comes to safety.
It Fits, But That Doesn’t Make It Safe
For example, the main loadbearing items on a forklift are the forks, and each fork is rated for its capacity. You don’t need a 10,000 lb. capacity fork on a 5,000 lb. capacity forklift. You don’t need all that extra metal, weight or expense since the forklift can’t lift to that capacity. But the mountings on these lifts are universal, so you can put the higher capacity forks on the lift even if the lift isn’t actually rated for that.
An employer could ask for the higher capacity forks, not realizing it doesn’t actually make his lift rated for that weight, and if the service company is only out for money, it’ll do the job as asked. I brought that to the attention of one big service company I worked for, and the manager said he didn’t think it was a big deal.
Are you kidding me?
Tires take it to a more relatable level. You know, tires that belong on a Subaru might fit on my Ford Expedition, but my Expedition is a half-ton vehicle, and the little Subaru is not. That’s why there are load ranges on tires. Even though someone may say it fits, it has a load range for that specific purpose. I’ve found this sort of situation happens frequently.
There are regulations that govern equipment maintenance, but OSHA tends to focus on the operations side of workplace safety – are you doing your safety checks, training operators correctly and that sort of thing. The regulations are out there, but OSHA’s not looking closely at the equipment.
Does the forklift have the right seat? Does it have the right seat belt? Is the seat loose? Are all the warning stickers on? Is the operator’s manual where workers can easily access it? And in-house maintenance departments often aren’t schooled well enough in these regulations to know better.
I assure you; I can look at any used piece of equipment in use today and find issues that would put it out of compliance and in many cases make it unsafe to operate. But I’ve made it my business to learn all I can about the hundreds of regulations – whether OSHA, ANSI or other federal or state – so I can police this aspect of safety.
And that’s really what’s needed in this area: an expert auditor who specializes in equipment maintenance and safety.
Otherwise, you could have problems with compliance, or worse, safety issues that could put employees at risk.
(Pierre Laudenberg, Senior Auditor, Lift Auditors LLC, San Pedro, CA)
by Merriell Moyer