by Larry Bouvier, CMRP
As businesses and facilities begin to reopen, employee health and safety are paramount. Cleaning, proper distancing, and personal protective equipment have always been important safety precautions, but are now more important than ever. But it is important to remember that while employees are returning to work, facilities’ support equipment itself also needs to be brought back to work in a safe and thoughtful manner. An unused sink drain may weep noxious odors, cooling fans may have burnt out, and security gates might balk at opening easily. The health and safety of your building, and the systems that make it habitable, is important to the health and safety, not to mention comfort, of your employees. Prior to opening a facility, managers need to create checklists and inspect and test all machinery.
If repairs or routine maintenance have been delayed or omitted by shutdown or reduced production, this can also create system problems and lead to downtime or employee safety concerns. As part of your checklist, I recommend reviewing recent maintenance logs to ensure that repairs and maintenance are cross-checked and do not fall through the cracks. Though the return to work may seem like a fresh start, the reality is that you’re working with machinery and systems that had problems before the pandemic began and that may have been shelved due to imminent and larger concerns at the time. It is imperative that the return to work have a heightened sensitivity to system controls, safety, and comfort, not an assumption that things were fine before and we can simply pick up where we left off.
Additionally, the building itself is a component of employee health and safety. Just as machinery has been powered down, it’s likely that your building support systems have also been unused (or little used) and untested. The effects of disuse, time, weather, and climate may adversely affect performance of building comfort systems. Air vents, heating and cooling, lighting, power, and security systems all need to be part of your checklist and inspection.
Returning a company to work is a great responsibility. Employee health and safety is the top priority. A comfortable workspace will make the return easier for us all. Make sure that you’ve looked at all aspects of what creates a truly safe and hospitable work environment.
About the Author
Larry Bouvier, CMRP is Vice President of Fuss & O’Neill’s Manufacturing Solutions, LLC. He has more than 30 years of heavy manufacturing experience providing hands-on mentoring, coaching, and training of employees, peers, and clients. He has been instrumental in helping his clients achieve world class maintenance by implementing best practices and processes, as well as by improving equipment reliability.