Safety: Equipment Inspection

Words: Best practices in masonry contracting do not include waiting until something goes wrong to inspect equipment and machinery. Best practices, OSHA reminds us, take three major components under consideration: manufacturers’ recommendations, good engineering practice, and, of course, applicable OSHA provisions.   Then there are those questions of how often to inspect something:  During each shift? Once a day?    How often do planned formal inspections by a regulatory agency occur?   What are the numbers, sizes, and potential risks of various work operations or equipment?   How many shifts and man hours are you running daily and what kind of activities transpire on each shift?    Bringing all those answers, all that information, together can lead to some complicated inspection checklists, even for your staff’s most highly competent person.   Some experts offer very simple responses such as Capital Safety Senior Training Specialist Jim Hutter. “When it comes to inspecting our equipment, remember it’s our lives we’re putting into this equipment. When in doubt, throw it out,” he says in a YouTube video.    Nonetheless, it would be hard to refute what Mason and Mason Insurance Agency account executive Brian Robertson says about inspections: They should be performed by a contractor-specified competent person who has been properly trained in inspection guidelines, of course, to inspect all equipment on a frequent and regular basis (AKA daily).   In his article “Safety Inspections: How Often Are Enough?” for the Predictive Solutions blog, Cary Usrey suggests inspection decisions should also be based on historical patterns of at-risk activity and past incident/near-miss records. Frequency should be determined based on data collected, not random guesswork.   He points out that OSHA’s Challenge recommends conducting routine self-inspections of the entire worksite at least weekly but actually as often as necessary. Because it’s easy to let the trees blind you to the forest, he points out some additional and especially good points: Those professionals who are conducting inspections should also observe behaviors and site conditions.   What Should We Inspect?  Now let’s consider certain types of equipment commonly inspected. First up: harnesses (safety guidelines for lanyards are almost identical).   These, Hutter recommends in the YouTube video, should undergo a four-point inspection: hardware, software (webbing), stitching, and labels.   Hardware: A bent D ring demonstrates that it has been poorly maintained. When inspecting also look for rust or corrosion, indentations, cracks, or other deformations.    Software: While burns are the predominant reason a harness would be prematurely removed from service, harnesses can reveal other signs of excessive use or damage. The outside of the webbing can have a cut or fraying no larger than 1/16th of an inch. Check the harness manuals, however, for verification, clarification, and/or more information.   Discoloration: UV damage caused by improper maintenance, likely storing the harness directly in the sun. Though there can also be chemical discoloration, which looks like a water spot that was cleaned up.   Dirt: Clean a harness using a bucket of soapy water, a brush, and any detergent that does NOT contain bleach.   Stitching: For most harnesses, one broken stitch is allowed. The second requires removal from service. Other manufacturers suggest eliminating the harness from service after three broken stitches. Check your user manual to see if the manufacturer goes by the two- or three-stitch method.      Vehicles are a large component of some contractor’s equipment. When verifying that trucks and other vehicles are in good working order, OSHA suggests, check for audible back-up warning signals before operating them and avoid overloading hoists, cranes, and forklifts.   “You might want to use the equipment’s OSHA inspection guidelines and the maintenance and operating information that you get from the equipment’s manual to develop several different checklists – one for site safety, one for systems, and one of safety equipment,” Mason & Mason Insurance suggests. These checklists should then be explained to employees, whose skillful knowledge in using the equipment is the first, often unspoken step in the inspection process.   We invited a couple of experts to a Q&A on equipment safety and inspections. Tony Deatherage, Service Manager for the Americas division of Xtreme Manufacturing, and Zach Everett, Corporate Safety Director of Brazos Masonry, answered some questions.   What are some things to look for when conducting inspections?  Tony Deatherage  Every single component needs to be physically touched/viewed during an inspection. This includes tires, belts, and steering systems; checking for leaks at hydraulic connections and the engine compartment; checking that fluids are topped off to the correct levels; and all controls and safety interlocks for correct operation.   Zach Everett: Having torn wiring or wiring harnesses or bad tires could affect an item’s safety. If a forklift or crane jerks or operates roughly or hesitates, consider that it could break down or cut loose while you’re operating it with a load overhead.   What are some commonly missed things in inspections or safety checks?  TD: Some of the biggest factors that are commonly missed or overlooked when inspecting equipment include legibility of warning decals, minor adjustments that can lead to operator complaints, and small leaks that have the potential to become larger leaks and cause downtime. ZE: The rule of thumb on inspections is to do them at the beginning of the shift or any time something happens that could affect its operability. Any time there’s an incident or even a change of operators.   When should inspections be done and how often?   TD: Inspections should be conducted three separate times:  
  1. by the operator at the beginning of each shift 
  1. by a qualified technician prior to every rental 
  1. and every 90-days or 150 hours of operation.  
  What’s the value of checklists?   TD: Each machine has two inspection checklists. A pre-start inspection checklist is located in the operator’s manual; a frequent inspection checklist is located in the service manual.   ZE: If someone rents equipment forklifts, for instance, the rental company will inspect it according to a checklist. At Brazos, we created a custom inspection sheet for us to use.   What are key elements to inspections?   TD: Thoroughness is key. Take the time to conduct a proper, thorough inspection. It will save significant downtime in the future.   What advice would you give mason contractors inspecting equipment?  TD: Operator inspections are an integral part of the day-to-day operation of a job site.  Inspections can help prevent accidents and keep the equipment maintained longer with less downtime overall. Take time to conduct a proper machine and worksite inspection prior to each shift. Job sites are constantly changing, and other workers need to be fully aware of any potential hazards and how to avoid them.   ZE: Keep up on daily maintenance on the equipment.   Words: Nichole L. Reber Photos: Xtreme Manufacturing
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