Accident puts spotlight on maintenance training

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Eu

The spotlight has fallen on maintenance training and the proper guarding of machinery in the wake of a United Biscuits worker having two fingers sliced off in a mixing machine.

The McVities manufacturer was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and fined £10,000 at the end of July after an investigation into the incident at its baking site in Halifax on April 9 2009. A female employee lost two fingers on her right hand when she attempted to clear a blockage in an industrial mixer used to combine ingredients for flapjacks.

Early this year, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work launched its new Healthy Workplaces Campaign for 2010/11, promoting safe maintenance. In some European countries as much as 20% of all workplace accidents are connected with maintenance and, in a number of sectors, over half of all accidents are maintenance-related. Furthermore, 1015% of fatal accidents at work have been attributed to poorly executed maintenance.

At the launch of the Campaign, EU Commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, László Andor, said: "Maintenance is a daily part of every workplace and sector. The 20% of accidents linked to maintenance shows it's an area where we have to raise awareness and step up our efforts."

He added: "Our overall strategy is to cut work-related accidents in the EU by 25% over the coming years."

Maintenance consultancy MCP says good plant maintenance is essential, but can itself be a high-risk activity for the workers that carry it out. MCP stresses that firms need to understand and measure their maintenance and asset management performance.

MCP operates its Asset Management Improvement Service, which audits and benchmarks firms and is used by more than 4,000 sites worldwide. It considers: equipment condition; workload planning and control; productivity and maintenance effectiveness; training and safety; motivation; culture; and people management.

MCP stresses, however, that even well-maintained machines can still be hazardous to a badly trained operator.

In a survey of more than 350 firms, MCP's findings show that only 16% are providing effective maintenance training, while just 18% said all their operators were fully trained and competent to work the production equipment. It is also a common practice to transfer operators to equipment on which they have not been trained when staff shortages occur.

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