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How old equipment can endanger employees

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Most workplace deaths and injuries in Australia are attributed to ‘plant’, a term that refers to the machinery, equipment, appliances and tools used in the workplace. If not properly maintained, each one of them has the potential to cause injury and death.

Common types of injuries caused by plant malfunction or incorrect use include fractures due to falling from plant, amputation of limbs by moving parts, being crushed by mobile plant, and electrocution and burns from unprotected plant.

Plant includes processing machinery such as cutters and presses, lifting equipment such as cranes and forklifts, pressure equipment such as boilers and refrigerators and earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers and excavators.

No matter how carefully plant and equipment are designed to address health and safety issues at the workplace, lack of regular maintenance and servicing can compromise health and safety at some point.

Consequently, OHS regulations require that employers maintain all plant to required safety standards and ensure the environment in which the inspection and maintenance is carried out is also safe for workers.

Typical plant maintenance might include inspection and replacement of seals on hydraulic equipment, hoists and chains on lifting devices and belts and gears on processing equipment.

In order to minimise the risks to those in the workplace, employers should consider the maintenance requirements of a particular brand of plant before they purchase it. These may include the hazards associated with maintaining the plant, precautions required to address those hazards, manufacturer’s recommendations about the type and frequency of maintenance required, skills or training required by those who carry out the maintenance, and special maintenance equipment required.

Employers must have an effective system in place to carry out effective plant maintenance and protect workers from the dangers associated with old plant and equipment.

Key elements of the system:

  • Allocate responsibility for inspection and maintenance, from managers and supervisors to those who will carry out the work
  • Maintain up-to-date records of all plant items and their inspection and maintenance schedules
  • Revise schedules as each plant item ages
  • Identify potential hazards associated with plant maintenance and devise safety procedures to minimise such hazards
  • Implement procedures for the reporting of necessary repairs and for ensuring they are carried out in a timely manner
  • Train the people who will carry out the maintenance and repairs, or contract suitably qualified experts
  • Regularly review the system and adjust it as required
Every machine has a lifespan, and no matter how rigorous the maintenance schedule may be, old machinery inevitably wears out. Such machines, which have the potential to injure someone in the workplace should be written off and retired long before such a malfunction can occur. 

Dowrie Cranes manufactures and supplies a wide range of materials handling systems and overhead lifting equipment to industry with products including Donati electric wire rope hoists, electric chain hoists, winches, crane kits, overhead travelling cranes, crane components, suspension cranes, crane wheels and material handling equipment.

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