CMMS takes the guesswork out of safety inspections

If you want to score points with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) auditor next time he pays a surprise visit to inspect your plant, show him an on-demand preventive maintenance (PM) report from your computer maintenance management system (CMMS) and watch the corners of his mouth turn slightly upward.


If you want to score points with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) auditor next time he pays a surprise visit to inspect your plant, show him an on-demand preventive maintenance (PM) report from your computer maintenance management system (CMMS) and watch the corners of his mouth turn slightly upward.

CMMSs have long been recognized for automating PM tasks on operations equipment to improve labor efficiency, asset effectiveness, and certification assistance with the International Standards Organization (ISO). A CMMS also plays an important role when it comes to safety compliance and liability protection with regulatory bodies like OSHA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and a variety of other quasi-government agencies.

A decent CMMS will not only alert maintenance operators when it’s time to change a motor bearing, but the PM calendar can tag the repair if it also belongs on a safety compliance checklist. OSHA auditors, for example, care about a trackable history of what was done on a piece of equipment; when it was done; who did it; how often it has been inspected; and whether clear instructions and safety procedures were documented. For OSHA, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. A CMMS is your proof of compliance.

Case in point: A giant linen rental company runs industrial washers, dryers, and folders that clean and press about 40,000 lbs. of laundry each day. It uses a CMMS to make sure all production equipment is in compliance with safety and environmental regulations, as well as insurance policies and company rules. Regularly scheduled PMs trigger notifications to maintenance technicians to not only tune up and repair machines but to perform environmental and occupational safety tasks, including:

- Lock out/tag out
- Extension cord inspections
- Fire pumps testing
- Tier II environmental checklists
- Machine guarding safety switch checklists
- Blood-borne pathogen exposure controls.

Half of the mission of meeting safety standards is simply remembering to complete the tasks; a CMMS becomes the brains behind maintenance operations and safety compliance.

Besides OSHA safety inspections, food processing plants can expect random inspections from both regulatory agencies and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers who add the plant’s dietary ingredients to their products.

A Midwest dairy manufacturer must adhere to strict USDA guidelines to combat bacterial contamination from E. coli or risk the health and safety of consumers and a public relations nightmare that could lead to the plant being shut down. With a CMMS, the maintenance team sets up PMs to check all bacteria lab testing equipment, including water filtration systems, air quality systems, and metal detectors that look out for foreign objects.

In addition, the dairy plant’s safety equipment used by repair mechanics is entered into the CMMS with PMs scheduled for routine inspections. Having a CMMS issue regular reminders takes the guesswork out of safety management and prevents putting workers’ lives at risk.

There are numerous opportunities to gain a positive return on investment using a CMMS: improved operations, asset preservation, etc. Another is “fine avoidance.” Many companies decide to purchase a CMMS package only after they’ve suffered the consequences of fines levied for lack of proof or some other failure during a regulatory audit.

While the initial appeal of a CMMS is to automate and schedule routine maintenance tasks, why not add the tasks on your regulatory checklist to your PM schedule and avoid noncompliance penalties before they happen?

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