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Maintenance engineers have an essential role is most industrial and manufacturing firms.  They proactively maintain equipment to avoid loss of productivity, and provide quick response to sudden breakdowns.  The typical maintenance engineer will take great pride in the work they do, having built up detailed knowledge of site systems over years of experience.

Risks of the job

Most processes and equipment will require safe isolation prior to commencing work.  Maintenance staff deal every day with risks arising from the presence of live voltages, high pressure oils/fluids, hazardous chemicals, mechanical movement, items falling etc. 

You only need to look at the HSE website (http://news.hse.gov.uk/) to read the latest stories of workers killed or injured as a result of these dangers.  Sadly in most cases the effects are devastating, yet in virtually every case safe isolation would have help avoid the accident.     

Engineering safe isolation lock off


Why do experienced engineers take the risk of not isolating? 

It’s easy to ask in hindsight why anyone would not properly isolate equipment before working on it.  However, at the point of making a decision, the choice may not be so clear cut.  Maintenance engineers can be under strong time pressure, and carrying out full isolation and lock off may take significant extra time and effort, maybe with knock-on consequences on other processes and machines.  Perhaps the risks of something going wrong may be seen as being quite low – if nothing has ever gone wrong before, why worry about it this time?  And if the engineers do a good job in fixing a problem, will anyone be concerned whether the equipment had been properly isolated? 

A culture of safely isolating

For a company to ensure its maintenance team is safely isolating, it’s not enough to simply have the right tools and procedures in place – it’s essential that everyone believes it is the right way of working.  Achieving this tough – how do you influence engineers who have been working in a particular way for a long time?  However, by involving engineers and managers in an open and honest discussion about the practical reality of maintenance work, it’s possible for companies to identify the real reasons why staff may not be choosing to isolate and lock off.  Furthermore, such discussions can help even the most experienced maintenance staff re-affirm that following the isolation procedures is the right choice every time.  Such an approach can help avoid the accidents which appear in the HSE news feed.

Waterside has developed bespoke training courses to help companies with their specific challenges regarding safe isolation, permit systems etc.  In addition, Waterside’s Electrical Maintenance Training Course includes practical technical training on electrical isolation.  For more information, call 01744 616 837 or use the Contact Us form to get in touch.