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How Preventative Maintenance Records Reduced One Company’s Liability

There has been a raft of bad accidents in the news lately related to systemic failures in maintenance. Property damage, injury and even death have resulted from negligence on the part of companies that should have known better.

Here are just a few examples:

An Austrian rail company’s trains collided in Italy due to faulty maintenance. The company was set to close its maintenance depot in Salzburg after outsourcing that work on its train cars, a move that they have now backtracked on. The firm is in even more trouble after it was discovered that there are maintenance problems with up to 2,000 of its freight cars. The company has since been banned from using that equipment in Italy.

Can you imagine the massive costs that a lackluster maintenance program has spread throughout this company? Lost revenue, increased corrective maintenance costs and the liability lawsuits from the accident are likely to seriously impact their operating costs, not to mention their stock price.

Investigators revealed numerous safety violations on the tour bus which crashed on a winding mountain road in California in early February. The bus company’s fleet maintenance is so suspect that the firm is now on a special federal watch-list that marks them for increased roadside inspections. Serious violations, including “bald tires, defective or missing axle parts, insufficient brake linings and a total of 59 violations” are recorded in US Department of Transportation safety records.

Here’s another disturbing one: An explosion at the headquarters of Mexico’s energy giant, Pemex, still hasn’t been determined as an accident, negligence or a terrorist attack. 34 people are dead. If it turns out that the explosion was due to negligent maintenance on Pemex’s part, there will be significant damages paid to the injured and the families of the deceased. Worse, the company could have opened themselves up politically to losing their monopoly in Mexico and being dismantled in some form of privatizing the oil industry there.

Why Maintenance Matters

Those types of accidents are only the most glaring examples of how bad maintenance can go terribly wrong. Everyday injuries, property damage and other costs crop up constantly for businesses that are playing defense with their maintenance or poking holes in what was once a forward-thinking approach to preventive care.

The saddest part about accidents caused by faulty maintenance, however, is that it’s so simple to address. A comprehensive maintenance plan can ensure that fleet vehicles, elevators and facilities are kept in working condition. Problems can be fixed before they turn deadly. This is the primary motivation behind managing risks, and it should be in the back of anyone who manages a fleet of vehicles or a facility.

Principles behind Effective Preventive Maintenance

As complicated as some operations can be, the principles undergirding a robust maintenance system are rather simple. And when applied effectively, these ideas can reduce costs, prolong equipment life, reduce liability and—most importantly—keep people safe:

  • Maintenance schedules should be crafted based on past equipment performance and manufacturer recommendations. Every fixture, vehicle and piece of equipment should have an end-to-end maintenance schedule for its entire lifecycle.
  • Implement your plan with automated asset tracking to make sure preventive maintenance happens promptly and automatically. When you can track inventory, work orders and purchase orders without expanding your clerical workload, you’ll see tremendous leverage for cost-saving decisions.
  • Good maintenance is also about analyzing past results and adjusting your schedules accordingly. Use the data you gather from consistent maintenance to save money and make far-reaching decisions that affect the long term safety conditions of your company.
  • Avoiding critical equipment failures (which are the source of significant liabilities for a company) is not simply about running your equipment through a checklist of maintenance procedures and hoping for the best. It’s about having a vision of possible failures that could occur and taking action to prevent them.

These are the principles that help shore up weaknesses in a company’s safety, shielding them from costly liabilities and the human costs of injury and even death that can result if those weaknesses are left to run unchecked.

What is the current state of your company’s safety measures? Does your current maintenance plan have holes that allow dangerous conditions to arise?

Author bio: Derek Smith is a marketing manager and writer for ManagerPlus, an asset management software company that creates asset management software for companies in industries ranging from mining to hospitality.

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