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Improving Worker Safety with Predictive Maintenance

A workplace accident creates a ripple effect through a plant’s operations. A single incident can result in serious financial repercussions, from lost labor time and compensation payouts to forced shutdowns. The process industry is already considered a leader in workplace safety, arming employees with PPE and regular safety training. But has your site added predictive maintenance (PdM) as part of its comprehensive safety program?

Machine intelligence provides the ability to forecast when equipment is likely to malfunction, enabling operators to take preventive action. Staying ahead of mechanical issues, especially ones that can create dangerous situations, is a critical safeguard against catastrophic accidents. Implementing PdM will help strengthen your safety initiatives.

The Implications of a Workplace Accident

Private industry employers reported 2.1 million nonfatal injuries in 2020 alone. This represents an incident rate of 2.2 cases per 100 full-time workers. Slips, falls, vehicle collisions, as well as equipment malfunctions were among the top causes. These types of incidents always result in significant financial consequences. One injured worker could require medical leave, restricted work activity, or job transfer. Their absence can also stress the workload of teammates and supervisors in addition to lowering morale.

Then there’s the devastating scenario of a fatality. In addition to deaths from falls, OSHA records show that workers have perished by being struck or crushed by equipment, burned, or electrocuted. Especially in manufacturing environments, chemical exposure is another widespread risk with the majority of chemical fatalities in 2021 resulting from releases, explosions, flash fires, inhalation, and asphyxiation.

Aside from the irreplaceable loss of life, casualties have direct financial impacts. According to the National Safety Council, the average cost of a workplace death is over $1.2 million, which stems from “estimates of wage losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, and employer costs.''

This does not account for other ramifications, such as property damage, government fines, lawsuits, damaged reputation, insurance premium increases, and falling stock shares. For example, Tesla experienced an 8% drop in share price following the announcement of a fatal crash with an employee and an autonomous vehicle.

Because the goal of every safety program is to minimize accident risk, predictive maintenance is another intelligent tool that aids those efforts. Predictive maintenance addresses worker safety by calculating when a critical asset could possibly fail. Sensors monitor machine health while advanced analytics are ready to communicate a performance warning. More proactive insight and control over equipment ultimately reduces the likelihood of an accident.

Safety Critical Elements and Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a powerful tool when paired with safety critical assets. The technology is far more than simple automation, however. It gives operators a tool that can tell them what is likely to happen on a machine with ample time to plan and react, often up to even 6 months in advance.

Examples of industrial environments where a PdM solution can curtail safety incidents:

Oil and gas – Leaks from gas and other flammable substances are a primary risk. Gas flaring and venting must also be closely monitored. An incident could create conditions for an accident or a shutdown.

Primary manufacturing – This sector relies on equipment with rotating devices: motors, bearings, and pumps. These moving parts can pose a hazard if not operating correctly. Leaks and thresholds for airborne particles are another monitoring concern that PPE alone cannot address.

Chemical manufacturing – Engineering controls are fundamental not only to production but preventing buildups and leaks.

Predictive maintenance solutions such as Novity True Prognostics™ deliver real-time insights about machine health as well as trending performance arming operators with the tools needed to prevent catastrophic failures. Implementing a two-pronged approach that includes predictive maintenance as part of a comprehensive safety program helps a manufacturing site stay ahead of malfunctions and failures – all of which can present a grave safety issue.

Interested in learning more about how this combined approach can be implemented with Novity to deliver an intelligent solution that lowers accident risk while protecting production output? Sign up for a demo of the Novity True Prognostic platform and start your journey to Zero Unplanned Downtime.