For maintainers and facilities engineers maintenance risk management can be anything that prevents a failure in the facility. That’s a mouthful when you consider everything that is involved in today’s modern, or not so modern, plant. There are safety risks, equipment risks, human risks, and intellectual property risks. All of these things require attention or they will become actual failures vs. risk. Which is why risk management is so important.
How does lubrication management fit into the big picture when it comes to risk as a whole? Let’s see about answering that question.
First of all let’s define how we properly assess risk:
- Identify hazards or pitfalls (machinery fail points)
- Assess each identified hazard/pitfall for potential
- Make decisions about which are priority
- Implement controls or processes
- Study for change
There are keys to success in assessment of risk that you can easily understand and implement. First is to do whatever it takes to answer all questions related to identifying and assessment of risks. This can help you to get a crystal clear picture of what you are facing, and that ultimately helps make better decisions upstream. Maintainers can all benefit by better decisions upstream.
Making decisions about risk can be simple, or complicated depending on how far you want to travel down the rabbit hole. The U.S. Navy has assigned four principals of operational risk management, and I believe these make sense.
- Accept risk only when the benefits outweigh the costs
- Accept only necessary risks
- Anticipate and manage risk by planning
- Make risk decisions at the right level
Ask all the detail specific questions you can before, during, and after maintenance tasks to identify specific risk areas. Am I qualified, authorized, confident…Did I follow procedures, all procedures, in order, let people know, reporting hazards as I go…Should I inspect my work, satisfy the requirements, document my work, debrief upon completion, document any part of the task not completed… Each yes answer decreases risk and each no answer increases the risks.
What does this mean for my lubrication practices?
The biggest way to mitigate risk when lubrication is concerned is to follow best practices with the work completed and plan the work so that downtime can be minimized. Yes I know that is brief, but simplicity is creativity in that when you plan for best practices you are 90% more likely to follow them. Fail to plan and you are no doubt planning to fail. Risk is failed plan in terms of downtime…this comes in many forms.
Lubrication management best practices cannot remove all risk, however, they are definitely worth the effort in that the benefits outweigh the costs 100% of the time, are necessary, can be planned for, and can be made part of regular process(decisions made at the right level). Which maintenance items when done preventatively have the biggest impact? That depends on your situation and what type of equipment in your plant is critical to uptime and other factors. Starting with clean lubricants and mitigating ingression of contamination are two great points of attack, but following a documented program, one that addresses fail points in the machinery via the lubrication is best.