December 21, 2016
Cutting Corners Can Affect Safety and MTBF
By James Pekarek
As a Millwright, Service Technician or any type of field or in-house Mechanic, we understand there is one main goal that we have in common, which is to keep the equipment running. This includes repairing and minimizing downtime in the event of an unpredicted failure or breakdown. Although it’s important to make repairs and perform the needed maintenance quickly, it is equally important to perform these repairs and duties correctly and to completion. We have all been there, equipment is down and production/operations is pushing you to make the repairs as quickly as possible so the machine can be put back into service.
This can create a situation where it may be tempting to cut corners, skip steps and fail to ensure the procedures were done properly and completely, such as; not properly testing after a repair, gloss over important lubrication steps, skipping proper LOTO (Lock Out Tag Out) and safety procedures, not performing a complete inspection of the equipment, and overlook questionable mounting hardware (bolts, studs, cupped washers, nuts & etc.). And of course not performing a proper precision shaft alignment on the rotating equipment. All too often technicians hear “align it later we are ready to start.”
Two of the possible outcomes to cutting corners are; 1) Potential for injury and safety concerns. 2) Reduced MTBF (mean time between failures) and shortened the overall life span of the equipment.
Following proper safety procedures and LOTO requirements is paramount. Not only is it generally required by the policy of most companies, it is outlined in OSHA 1910 and NFPA 70 and 70E requirements for general industry. At a minimum, failing to follow proper guidelines can result in heavy fines and termination. At the other end of the scale is personal injury and possible death, it happens all too often. Injury can be as a result of many things. Pinch point hazards, rotating machinery injury, electric shock, arc flash are all among the many possible outcomes from not following proper safety procedures.
Precision shaft alignment is another area of importance. As studies have shown not preforming precision shaft alignment of rotating machinery will most certainly lead to early equipment failure due to pump seal failure, bearing failure, excessive power consumption, increased vibration, and excessive heat. All of these factors contribute to additional maintenance costs, excessive repair time, and unscheduled downtime. Ensuring a precision shaft alignment as part of your repair and maintenance routines will significantly reduce MTBF as well as costs.
Sometimes, gray areas are created between reducing downtime and proper maintenance/safety procedures because “we have to do, what we have do” and that is getting the equipment back up and running. We have to make judgement calls between the two, but for our safety and the safety of others, our judgement should always lean toward the side of proper procedure.