Maintenance leads to safety

Oct. 4, 2012

Preventive and predictive maintenance practices are proven methods for keeping machinery running and avoiding costly unplanned downtime. That's why maintenance is so important, right?

Preventive and predictive maintenance practices are proven methods for keeping machinery running and avoiding costly unplanned downtime. That's why maintenance is so important, right?

Well, yes, but that’s only part of the equation. "First and foremost, your equipment needs to be safe," Vince Hoy, plant manager at WestWind Logistics (, tells me. At the WestWind warehouse in Omaha, Nebraska, material handling equipment such as forklifts and conveyors receive regular attention. "Preventive maintenance is key," says Hoy. "If the operator is using an unsafe piece of equipment, this already puts him behind the safety curve, a place I do not want any of my employees."

Wes Scott, PhD, P.E., manager, consulting services, at the National Safety Council ( explains that some of the greatest strides in material handling are related to the fact that companies are taking the opportunity as much as possible to remove the person from the equation. “Reliance is leaning more toward equipment for material handling rather than the previous practices of manipulating goods by hand, he says. “The use of lift tables, cranes, forklifts, or even robotics has reduced exposure and injuries.”

Randy Cutler, vice president, global health, safety and environment, at Norgren (, agrees. “The advantage of automated material moving is that it reduces employee repetitious exposure associated with manual material handling,” he says.

Paul Perry is owner, president, and CEO for AutoGuide Systems (, which provides a bolt-on controller solution that turns a manually operated truck into an AGV. His company’s its have been designed to fit Toyota tuggers and pallet trucks without modification. “The AGV cabinet bolts to the existing truck frame,” explains Perry. We design our control interface with plugs that match those on the OEM truck. The AGV kit can be installed as a retrofit and removed from vehicles that may be under leasing arrangements. Our principal AGV processor is an Allen-Bradley PLC.”

Safer material handling systems have a direct effect on the bottom line and help to lower a facility’s overall expenses, says Jason Parko, ergonomic material handling — solutions center product manager, Ingersoll Rand ( “They prevent work-related injuries and absences and reduce workers’ compensation premiums, which minimizes downtime and increases productivity,” says Parko.

“Safety can be impacted through a combination of functional safety, operator training, and proper equipment maintenance,” explains Jonathan Dawley, president of Hyster Distribution ( “Running an operator checklist at the beginning of each shift, or prior to operation of a lift truck, allows for all items to be double-checked and to ensure the forklift is operating properly and can be operated safely. This checklist practice, combined with regular maintenance, can help to keep systems running smoothly and provide the basis to safe lift truck operations.”

Forklift maintenance, if neglected, can compromise safety, warns Brian Duffy, director of corporate environmental and manufacturing safety at Crown Equipment ( “Checking critical functions such as braking, hydraulics, and controls helps to ensure a safe and productive operation,” he offers. “Pre-shift safety checks required by OSHA, such as Powered Industrial Truck Standard 1910.178, are extremely useful in detecting problems before they contribute to an accident. In addition, maintenance information from reliable forklift fleet and operator management systems helps managers to gain the information they need to manage both routine and unexpected maintenance needs, which further improves safety and productivity.”

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