Maintenance and Inspection of Work Equipment


Work equipment needs to be properly maintained so that it continues to operates safety and in the way it was designed to perform. The amount of maintenance will be stipulated in the manufacturer’s instructions and will depend on the amount of use, the working environment and the type of equipment. High speed, high hazard machines, which are heavily used in an adverse environment like salt water, may require very frequent maintenance, whereas a simple hand tool, like a shovel, may require very little.
Maintenance management schemes can be based around a number of techniques designed to focus on those parts which deteriorate and need to be maintained to prevent health and safety risks. These techniques include:

  • Preventative Planned Maintenance: Which involve replacing parts and consumables or making necessary adjustments at present intervals, normally set by the manufacturer, so that there are no hazards created by component deterioration or failure. Vehicles are normally maintained on this basis.
  • Condition Based Maintenance: This involves monitoring the condition of critical parts and carrying out maintenance whenever necessary to avoid hazards which could otherwise occur.
  • Breakdown Based Maintenance: Here maintenance is only carried out when faults or failures have occurred. This is only acceptable if the failure does not present an immediate hazard and can be corrected before the risk is increased.

Maintenance Management

In the context of health and safety, maintenance is not concerned with operational efficiency but only with avoiding risks to people. It is essential to ensure that maintenance work can be carried out safely. This will involve:

  • Competent Well-trained maintenance people
  • The equipment being made safe for the maintenance work to be carried out. In many cases the normal safeguards for operating the equipment may not be sufficient as maintenance sometimes involves going inside guards to observe and subsequently adjust, lubricate or repair the equipment. Careful design allowing adjustments, lubrication and observation from outside the guards. Making equipment safe will usually involve disconnecting the power supply and then preventing anything moving, falling or starting during the work. It may also involve waiting for equipment to cool or warm up to room temperature.
  • A safe system of work being used to carry out the necessary procedures to make and keep the equipment safe and perform the maintenance tasks. This can often involve a formal ‘permit to work’ scheme to ensure that the correct sequence of safety critical tasks has been performed and all necessary precautions taken.
  • Correct tools and safety equipment being available to perform the maintenance work without risks to people.
  • The extent and complexity of maintenance can vary considerably from simple checks on basic equipment to integrated programme for complex plant. In all circumstances, for maintenance to be effective, it should be targeted at the parts of work equipment where failure or deterioration could lead to health and safety risks. Maintenance should address those parts which have failed or are likely to deteriorate and lead to health and safety risks.
  • Simple hand tools usually require minimal maintenance, but could need repair or replacement at intervals. More complex powered equipment will normally be accompanied by a manufacturer’s maintenance manual, which specifies routine and special maintenance procedures to be carried out at particular intervals. Maintenance procedures should be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations which relate to the equipment, for example periodic lubrication, replacement and adjustment of parts.
  • Where safety-critical parts could fail and cause the equipment, guards or other protection devices to fail and lead to immediate or hidden potential risks, a formal system of planned preventative or condition-based maintenance is needed.
  • Additional maintenance measures may be required if particularly arduous conditions of use are foreseen or have been experienced in use. There may be times when these additional measures need to be reviewed and revised in the light of ongoing operating experiences.

Frequency of Maintenance

Equipment should be checked frequently to ensure that safety-related features are functioning correctly. A fault which affects production is normally apparent within a short time, however, a fault in a safety-critical system could remain undetected unless appropriate safety checks are included in maintenance activities. The frequency of maintenance activities should take into account the:

  • Intensity of Use – Frequency and maximum working limits;
  • Variety of Operations – is the equipment performing the same task all the time or does this change?
  • Risk to health and safety from malfunction or failure
  • Operating environment, for example marine, outdoors.


When work equipment is first installed, and when it is moved or relocated, it must be inspected to make sure that it has been correctly installed and is operating safely. Where it is possible that the equipment is exposed to conditions that could cause it to deteriorate, it must be inspected regularly. Inspection does not normally include the checks that are a part of the maintenance activity although certain aspects may be common. For the purpose of this regulation, inspection does not include a pre-use check that an operator makes before using the work equipment. While inspections need to be recorded, pre-use checks do not.
Complex equipment and high risk equipment will probably need a maintenance log and may require a more rigid inspection to ensure continued safe operation.
The inspection must be done:

  • After installation for the first time.
  • After assembly at a new site or in a new location and at suitable intervals.
  • Each time exceptional circumstances occur which could affect safety.

Purpose of an Inspection

The purpose of an inspection is to identify whether the equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration (for example defect, damage, wear) can be detected and remedied before it results in unacceptable risks.

What should be included in the Inspection?

  • The extent of the inspection required will depend on the potential risks from the work equipment. Inspection should include, where appropriate, visual checks, functional checks and testing.
  • An inspection will vary from a simple visual external inspection to a detailed comprehensive inspection, which may include some dismantling and/or testing.
  • An inspection should always include those safety-related parts necessary for safe operation of equipment, for example overload warning devices and limit switches.

The extent of the inspection required will depend on:

  1. The type of equipment
  2. Where it is used
  3. How it is used

Equipment that should Receive an Inspection

The types of equipment whose use could result in significant risk as a result of deterioration and which may therefore need to be inspected include:

  • Most fairground equipment
  • Machines where there is a need to approach the danger zone during normal operation such as horizontal injection moulding machines, paper-cutting guillotines, die-casting machines, shell-moulding machines
  • Complex automated equipment
  • Integrated production lines

Equipment for which an Inspection is not Required

If failure or fault of the equipment cannot lead to significant risk or if safety is guaranteed through appropriate maintenance, inspection may not be necessary. Equipment unlikely to need an inspection includes office furniture, hand tools, non-powered machinery and powered machinery such as a reciprocating fixed-blade metal cutting saw.

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