Reliability or safety first?

In an asset intensive environment an integral part of Reliability is Safety, in other words when reliability increases so does the safety.


It is always a pleasure to see that when reliability initiatives are starting to have a positive effect on equipment, people and processes the safety Key Performance Indicators (“KPI’s”) go up as well. But why does this happen and which is coming first? Is it the safety or reliability? I say reliability comes first then safety, people become more comfortable and positive in their respective roles because the processes are under more reliable control and safety is one of the positive side effects of reliability.

Let’s take a look at the illustrated scenario below:

In a Reactive Maintenance environment:

  • Safety is very instinctive in nature; that is to say when a problem arise instincts are what drives the situation more than anything else. Instincts say that one can react to the problem in a particular way, unfortunately often ignoring or not noticing the dangers that are present.
  • Reliability, if that definition can be used in this situation, is almost nonexistent; that is to say there are no failure mode focused or planned maintenance activities and therefore the maintenance activities are all reactive or break down maintenance.
  • Behavior is all reactive; in a reactive maintenance regime it is close to impossible to expect anything else.

In a Planned Maintenance environment:

  •  Safety is enforced; through planned maintenance activities safety procedures are most often enforced through the planning process.
  • Reliability is scheduled; scheduled maintenance activities can support reliability initiatives. Focusing maintenance activities on failure modes, therefore preventing failure obviously contributes to increased reliability. However one needs to be mindful that too much planned maintenance can backfire. Focusing on the wrong maintenance activities (the ones not focusing on the failure modes, etc.) will not help and last but not least the maintenance induced failures also contribute to less reliability.
  • Behavior is guided; through the planning process safety procedures are usually a part of the Planned Maintenance procedures and thus enforced.

In a Pro-active Maintenance environment:

  • Safety is embedded; in a pro-active environment safety conscience is a second nature. Embedded in all levels of the organisation, responsibility for safety is everyone’s role and viewed as an added value to the business.
  • Reliability is Continuously Improved; in the Pro-active maintenance environment maintenance activities are not only performed, they are always performed in a way that focuses on how they can be improved. It also focuses a lot on condition monitoring and only intervening when failure modes are measured as trending up.
  • Behavior is self disciplined; in a pro-active maintenance environment the behaviours are self disciplined to focus on reliability continuous improvements with embedded safety in all aspects of the maintenance and production environment.

As can be seen above the development of Reliability and Safety have a strong correlation. Focusing on increased Reliability will promote the right behaviours and result in better safety KPI’s. In addition to all these great benefits to the organisation it will also have a positive impact on the productivity and therefore profitability, which is always a good added benefit to any initiative.

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