Selling your ideas to help make improvements in the workplace


How many of us market our “Continuous Improvement” ideas well within the organisation?

My experience is that it is very difficult to bring about even small changes since there is a natural resistance to any change.

I came across this article on marketing your ideas to internal clients and decision makers.

Selling your ideas to help make improvements in the workplace.

Read and hone your marketing skills.



Importance of Training the work force on Electrical Safety


Electrical Power is used by all the staff members in a work force, at all levels.

To be safe, it is essential that every one understands the importance of basic electrical safety. For those who work on powered equipment, it is vital that they know more about electrical safety.

To achieve near zero electricity power related accidents in any organisation it is a must that layered, regular training and refresher sessions are conducted. Audit on how people comply to safety rules is also essential to measure the training effectiveness and attitudinal change brought about.

Here is a link to an article on the importance of training and audit on electrical safety.



Control your repairs and spares, avoid costly downtime

Hi all,

All those who maintain capital assets by way of equipment, systems, buildings and vehicles cannot deny that they had to do some sort of repair work due to break down, reduced capacity, failures etc, some time in their day-to-day operations.

How the repairs were done, who all were involved, where was it done, What was done, when was it done and why did it become necessary are a few questions that need to be answered and recorded as part of the “Equipment / System History”.

I came across a very well written article on the importance of ensuring:

  • that the “Repair work” is assigned to the trained and skilled personnel.
  • that a well organised and clean workshop is used to do the necessary repairs, if not done on site, on location.
  • that quality spare parts and other material should be available in time, to avoid delay in work schedules.

The Link to the article is given below:

Reliability: Gain control of your repairs and spares to avoid costly downtime.

Reliability goes hand-in-hand with the quality of work done. It is essential that the repair personnel in the maintenance department are trained in their core skills and periodically tested for their skill retention. These people should be encouraged to learn new skill sets so that they also can rise in the hierarchy as deemed necessary.

The HR angle to skill retention in an organisation, getting better employee loyalty, better team development etc will flow from the way we try to motivate them.



Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety

Hi all,

Making “Safety at work” a religion will help save many lives, will reduce accidents and injuries, improve individual productivity, business reputation, employee loyalty and the overall bottom line of any business.

Every aspect of work needs to be made safe, but one of the most hazardous and common place accident prone area is people working on electrical installations.

What is visible is generally comprehended and people become aware of the danger and take care. An arc flash is a hidden danger and can strike at will from any of the closed and secure switchgear cabinets.

I found this very infomative article on the history of electrical safety and the evolution of OSHA standards regarding the same in the Plant Services online magazine. Please click on the link to read.

Electrical Systems: The history of electrical safety.

Safety is everybody’s business. The Managers have the additional responsibility of ensuring that his team is fully aware of the safety requirements and adhere to all the regulations in letter and spirit. Thisis part of the team building exercises and training.


Cleaning Glazed Areas – The challenges

Hi all,

Two small disclaimers are necessary in the beginning itself:

  • all the opinions voiced in this Post are my own and not that of any organisation that I worked with or am currently working with.
  • Some of the descriptions of buildings and problems faced therein are mentioned in this post, without actually naming them or giving out their locations. If the readers find some matching buildings in their own imagination or experience, it is their own imagination.

Glazed facades / domes / atrium roofs

Glass has been a great building material for quite some time. The technology improvement in making plate glasses have brought in a large variety of glass in various hues, colours, sizes and shapes available to the architects and building engineers. What this has brought about is large glass facades, walls, doors, etc at times measuring a few acres of surface area in a building.

The artistic domes atop buildings and atrium roofs add style and glamour to buildings.

Glass has become an integral part of every building in view of meeting the “Day light harvesting” requirements, grand facades, reducing stored heat or cold as the case may be and other architectural interests.

Maintenance challenges

When compared to painted or other types of external wall coverings, glass offers a longer time line between maintenance cleaning and other work on them. The smooth glass surface is less likely to retain debris, dust and moisture compared to rougher painted surfaces and porous natural stone coverings. The use of a combination of glass and aluminium cladding for facades has caught on like wild-fire.

Not withstanding the above facts, glazed exteriors also require periodic maintenance – this is an inescapable fact.

Architects, building engineers and building / facility owners also need to be aware of the glazed area maintenance requirement at the building design stage itself. If the maintenance related provisions are made at the design stage, the implementation of periodic maintenance becomes easier and fool-proof. I am going to cover the challenges in glazed area maintenance in a series of case studies.

Case 1.  Small factory building with glazed facade

In this building the glazed area was basically for show purpose. The architects had not provided any means to do glass cleaning. The height was not much, but more than what was reachable even with the longest telescopic glass cleaning equipment. There were no accessible perches in between, to provide access. There were no anchor points provided on the flat terrace, to allow people to access from the top. The dusty external environment made the facade dirty very frequently. As the Facilities Management agency for this building, we suggested procurement of a scissor / boom lift for the facade cleaning purpose. the same equipment could be used for other purposes such as high mast light fitting maintenance, accessing the steam / chilled water / DM water pipes running on raised structures etc. It was a worthwhile investment wisely made by them.

Safety Factors in Using a Scissor / Boom Lift

Only a trained and authorised person should be allowed to drive and operate the scissor / boom lift. The driver may not necessarily go up with the lift while the cleaning person is on task. The driver needs to be around to assist in changing the height of the boom, moving it to the sides etc. These operations / controls of the boom bucket should be with the driver alone.

The people undertaking the cleaning should wear all essential PPE such as safety helmet, nose mask and eye protection (in case of flying dirt and debris) and a full body safety harness that is anchored to the boom bucket anchoring points.

Scissor / Boom lifts should be parked in more or less level ground, before the people are lifted up. Positive additional support using hydraulic jacks should also be applied.

Case 2.  Very well-known education institution with a large academic centre with a deep atrium and tall central structure

The architects had chosen natural stone for covering the external walls. The stone colour would not show much of the dirt that settled on its rough surface. The central tower was totally air-conditioned, hence had sealed windows. There was no way to access the window panes from the outside since it was too tall to reach from the atrium. Atrium was accessible only through staircases, thus ruling out a boom lift or other types of vehicles entering there and being used for access. Yes, we could have lowered a vehicle in using a heavy-duty crane, but the vehicle would have been constrained to remain within that area and would have been underutilised.

There were no anchor points provided on the terrace. The terrace layout and structure were not amenable to lay a trolley for a davit and cradle arrangement to move around the periphery. The management was not very keen on making a big capital expenditure for the facade cleaning equipment also, since it was not budgeted for in the initial plan.

Yes, spider man technique using improvised anchor points could have been used.

I am not aware as to how they finally managed, since I left the facility for other new projects and at a later date my company stopped working in that facility too.

Case 3.  A Tech Giant with a large office space completely covered with glass all around

In this case every thing was provided for. A clean rectangular foot print for the highrise building allowed clean runways for the davit to run on the terrace and enough space to lower the cradle at all positions. Good quality, known brand of cradle mechanism was installed and operated as well.

Safety Factors in Using Cradle Mechanism

The people using the cradle mechanism are to be trained, tested and authorised for using the same. Periodic refresher training and testing are also required. “Train the trainer” route also could be taken on the long run to train a couple of internal trainers, thus reducing the recurring training cost.

All essential PPE should be issued and used by the people assigned to the cradle work.

Work permit should be issued after ascertaining the safety aspects and hazards analysis. The wind speed should be a maximum of moderate levels only – otherwise too much of swinging of the cradle could lead to accidents, banging onto the building facade, damage to the facade including glass etc.

Review of load test certificates, ropes and other load bearing members of the cradle arrangement should be done before attempting to operate. All periodic statutory tests and certification are to be current before starting operations.

The building owner and users should be briefed about the facade cleaning work plan.

Necessary barricades for risky areas, security personnel posted at tactical positions to guide other users and full supervision of the work are essential to ensure total safety.

Case 4. An automobile manufacturing plant with a network of long interconnected production bays.

The designer had provided for “Northlight” glazed areas in each bay. The roofs were slanting type, with sheer falls at the northlight area. All the glass panes were sealed to their frames to avoid ingress of water during rain. The glazed areas were not accessible from the ground due to height and other structures blocking the path for boom lifts. The only access was from the roof. Climbing on the roof itself was a hazardous exercise, due to the complex structures and the slope.

Representative Northlight roof structureJust to help in visualising the problem, a representative drawing of the bare structure is given here.

The cleaning from inside was comparatively easier since the cleaning crew could climb on the internal structure and reach the glazed area.

Much thought was given and ideas were discussed before reaching the ultimate decision on how to safely work on this job. A steel rope was anchored to both ends of each bay and tightened as far as possible. These ropes were further anchored to some points on the lower side of the sloping roof, so as to keep the rope as taut as possible. The work platform was hung on to the rope with a pulley arrangement to lower and hoist. People working from the platform were anchored to the rope using extension bits and the full body harnesses.

Getting the “Work permit” each day was a mammoth task since the Company management wanted a zero accident record. We managed the same without any mishaps barring minor abrasions to a couple of people.

Tail Piece

Imagine the team that does facade cleaning on the World’s tallest tower “Burj Dubai” and other such buildings!

The idea behind this blog entry is to get the regular readers thinking on the right lines from the building design stage till the regular maintenance.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!


A New Year and Great Opportunities

Another “New Year” just about to start, offering us fresh opportunities to put together another great maintenance management show…….Wow.

So, what did we achieve in this year, may be great, may be just about average, or even lesser………

Reminds me of the romantic lyrics of an old “Carpenters” song titled “Only Yesterday” – “Only yesterday when I was sad………….you showed me the way to leave the past……………tomorrow may be even brighter than today”

The best way to convert the new challenges to great opportunities is to meet them head on. We have tightened our belts and lived long enough in the current financial melt down, maintenance budget cuts, energy use optimisation pressures, lack of all types of resources and bleak forecasts about the future. So, what do we do?

  • Regular, detailed planning of all activities will always be fruitful in effective and efficient job execution. A few minutes spent in forward planning can save hours of chaotic and stressed operations.
  • Always have a Plan B, just in case Plan A doesn’t work out as expected.
  • Try and improve on the Plan A compliance percentage.
  • Use all possible tools to improve your planning ability.
  • Build a team that will stand by you in bad times as well as good times. (A little difficult, but definitely possible)
  • Train your team regularly to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Be an exemplary leader

Most of the suggestions given above will not cost you much in terms of money, but can reap wonderful benefits.

Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all viewers”

Worker Safety: The 10 Most Common Violations

When we talk about dangerous professions, what jobs are you reminded of? Working in a mine, oil refinery or the construction industry have its own share of risk. What about maintaining institutional, commercial and industrial facilities?

A top priority for every maintenance and engineering manager is to protect building occupants, workers and visitors. But managers too often forget the people who work behind the scenes and perform the most dangerous tasks in the said environment — the front-line maintenance personnel, more so the engineering technicians.

It is said that, annually, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues about 40,000 citations in USA. To avoid injury to maintenance personnel, as well as citations and fines, we must develop a plan for worker safety that complies with OSHA or any other local safety body and create a healthier environment for the maintenance staff.

Repeat Offenses

10 most common violations of the safety code are covered below. While we emphasise safety during training sessions and supervising the maintenance staff, departments still commit many common violations related to:

  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Training of personnel in use of PPE related to their individual deployment is as important as enforcing their use. It should become a part of their psyche to use all the prescribed PPE in every job they do.
  • Electrical hazards. Awareness of general conditions is a must for every individual. Detailed instructions are to be given to the personnel actually working in areas with electrical hazard.
  • Machine guarding. As a rule, all machines come with suitable safety guards; these get misplaced or damaged over the years and slowly vanish from the place. Regular audits of machine guards availability is a must and personnel in charge of equipment, machinery and systems should be held responsible for the safety aspects on the items allocated to them.
  • Hazard communication. This is a very weak link. Everyone should be trained and encouraged to report hazards that they find in the place of work or otherwise, irrespective of its severity.
  • Misuse of flexible, extension chords. Very commonly seen violations are: Usage of chords without proper plug tops, lack of earthing, non provision of ELCB, unsafe joints in the cable, overloading etc.
  • Fall protection. On many occasions we see personnel wearing the fall protection with the arresting chord wound around their torso. In other cases, the fall protection chords are not anchored properly.
  • Lock Out and Tag Out (LOTO) on energized equipment and systems. Safety of personnel working on downstream equipment and system elements is paramount. A well established LOTO will help in avoiding mishaps due to personnel unknowingly energising electrical circuits on which work is in progress or starting machinery being repaired. 
  • Inaccessible portable fire extinguishers. On many occasions, portable fire extinguishers provided with good intentions are found to be obstructed from view or even totally inaccessible. This would defeat the very purpose for which it has been provided in the first place.
  • Welding and hot work. Proper inspection of the hot work site and peripheral areas are at many times overlooked. Barricading the work area is a good idea. Issuing hot work clearance certificates involving all the affected groups, including security personnel would reduce the probability of an accident and help in emergency reactions.
  • Compressed gas cylinder stowage and handling. Compressed gas cylinders need to stowed and handled properly to avoid mishaps.
  • “Near missreporting. Many times an actual accident may not have occurred, but a “Near miss” would have. People are diffident in reporting such events for the fear of repercussions and lengthy administrative inquiry / hazard analysis. “Near miss” reports can help in avoiding recurrence through process or activity changes or making physical changes to an area as the case may be.
  • Documented training records. Though not directly affecting safety, these records would help in understanding training needs, planning training sessions and documenting training outcome. Record keeping is at times perceived as an administrative chore, hence neglected.

Depending on the scope of a department’s activities, each of these issues can endanger maintenance personnel and operations. We must ensure these common violations do not hamper the department’s efforts to create a safe, efficient and effective work environment.

Adapted from an article by David Casavant in Plant Engineering Issue