CMMS can reduce the risk of personal injury

March 6, 2006
Software can help reduce the risk of personal injury, says David Berger in his monthly Asset Manager column.

Lost-time accidents cost big money to industry and take an enormous toll on employee morale and motivation. Companies that have invested heavily in safety have found that despite the initial outlay of cash to fund safety programs, the payback is substantial. Part of a good health and safety program for the maintenance department is the ability to record, track and manage relevant information using a tool such as your CMMS. With recent advances in technology, CMMS vendors have added numerous features and functions that can help companies better manage their assets and reduce the risk of personal injury. Look for the features described below within your CMMS package. Use them to help reduce the overall cost of poor safety practices.

View more safety content on

Employee safety record

Many CMMS packages have an employee module that allows you to record the safety record for each employee, including lost-time accidents and illnesses. This works well for small-to-medium companies that don’t have a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) managed by the HR department. Larger companies often have a separate software application managed by their corporate HR department to track these statistics, with access provided to maintenance and other department managers.

It’s important to track and publish the maintenance department safety record so employees are suitably motivated to keep lost-time accidents to a minimum. Upon emergence of a reversible trend such as a certain type of accident, area of the plant or a given individual, improvements such as targeted training, revamping safety procedures, equipment redesign, and so on can be implemented.

Training and skills inventory

Another feature related to the CMMS employee module is the ability to record each employee’s safety training and skills. By comparing skills acquired with skills required, maintenance planners can ensure, from a safety perspective, that the right people are assigned to a job. It might also highlight deficiencies in the safety training program when there aren’t enough resources to clear the work order backlog.
In some cases, there might be a requirement to track expiration dates on safety training certificates and the dates of recertification for technicians and supervisory staff. Similarly, the CMMS can ensure safety training requirements are identified and tracked for new employees.

Safety videos

For a quick refresher on safety procedures, sometimes all that’s required is to review a safety video prior to starting a job. Some CMMS packages can store and catalog video files, and even attach them to the work order electronically. If work orders are printed for technicians, notes on the printed document can provide a list of relevant suggested or required safety videos and where to find them.


Standard operating procedures are one of the most critical elements of any maintenance department safety program. Developing SOPs and associating them with a given asset type or job can pay off. Safety SOPs can be attached to work orders and printed for any demanded or planned work, including preventive maintenance. In cases where safety procedures are relevant only to one asset or set of tasks, it makes more sense to embed them in the inspection or repair procedures. In other cases, safety SOPs can be stored as generic procedures for maintenance planners or supervisors to select when building a given work order.

Graphics and sound bites

For many SOPs, an accompanying graphical representation makes the procedures easier to absorb and understand. For example, a drawing of the asset could indicate unsafe areas to be avoided or the location of machine parts referred to in the procedure. Many CMMS packages can attach graphics to the SOP as simple picture files, complex CAD drawings or even graphical animation, depending on the need. Except for the latter, these files can be printed with the work order. Furthermore, sound files can be stored with an SOP to provide verbal enhancement to the written procedures.

Safety checklists

A more interactive supplement to safety SOPs are safety checklists. These not only provide technicians with a handy summary of safety tasks in chronological order, but can allow technicians to enter data against the checklist such as a tick box acknowledging that a task was completed, and enter measurements that result from a given task. For critical safety tasks, this is an important CMMS feature as it leaves an audit trail showing that expected safety tasks were indeed completed.


In accordance with OSHA compliance, vendors provide Material Safety Data Sheets to ensure the safe workplace handling of materials, including lubricants or chemicals the maintenance department might use. Some CMMS packages easily store, sort, filter, search for and manage MSDS documents. The system also can attach MSDS documents to a given SOP automatically and print them along with the work order where appropriate.

Safety priority

There are many priority codes available on a CMMS to help prioritize work, as well as to alert planners and technicians of health and safety concerns. Almost all CMMS packages have a field for “equipment criticality” that can be found on the master record for a given asset. Some, however, offer an additional field to flag assets that are critical from a safety perspective. This can be done simply by using a tick box, or with a numeric field for rating the safety risk associated with a given asset.

The most sophisticated systems generate a numerical score for ranking asset criticality, as well as defining relative risk. This technique uses multiple user-defined questions for progressive scoring of an asset’s severity of failure in terms of safety, environmental impact, quality, performance and so forth.

Criteria, severities and scoring algorithms are user-defined and can incorporate Boolean logic to determine final equipment criticality based on impact severities. The CMMS can then calculate the probability of failure and relative risk. Users can schedule or filter alarms based on asset criticality ranking or relative risk.

Another safety priority code found on most CMMS packages appears on the work order. This code or tick box allows users to identify jobs that are highly risky regarding health and safety. Combining this with the asset-based code described above allows jobs to be scheduled and resourced on the basis of full knowledge of safety risks.


Some regulated industries require significantly greater rigor in health and safety. Several of the more advanced CMMS vendors have added strong functionality in this area, allowing users to:

  • Document lockout/tagout procedures for each piece of equipment (eg, isolation and de-isolation process with locking and tagging control procedures).
  • Generate an event with a permit reference number when opening a work order.
  • Provide configurable permit and certificate forms and workflow.
  • Print tags and labels that are cross-referenced to procedures.
  • Support multiple lockout/tagout controls such as key safes, lock boxes, lock bars and tagging systems.
  • Establish an isolation register showing equipment that is currently tagged, by whom and when.
  • Manage keys (hierarchy, key safety and planning, procedures).
  • Track lockout/tagout history for each piece of equipment and tag point.
  • Display information graphically on a map of the facility and worksites (shared isolation points, cross locks, active permits and isolation certificates, in-process risk assessments or inspections).

E-mail Contributing Editor David Berger at [email protected]

About the Author

David Berger | P.Eng. (AB), MBA, president of The Lamus Group Inc.

David Berger, P.Eng. (AB), MBA, is president of The Lamus Group Inc., a consulting firm that provides advice and training to extract maximum performance, quality and value from your physical assets, processes, information systems and organizational design. Based in Toronto, Berger has held senior positions in industry, including for two large manufacturers, and senior roles in consulting. He has written more than 450 articles on a variety of topics such as asset management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. Contact him at [email protected].

Sponsored Recommendations

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...

The Importance of Air-To-Cloth Ratio when Selecting Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
Selecting the right filter cartridges for your application can be complicated. There are a lot of things to evaluate and air-to-cloth ratio. When your filters ...