Machinery maintenance, safety statutes minimise accidents

Vibrant industrial activity is the hub of economic growth in any country. The more new factories that are set up and the more existing ones that are recapitalised, the higher the employment rate and the higher the interaction between man and machinery.

Unfortunately, as the machine and human interface increases, more employees are exposed to a greater risk of accidents.

Because failure of certain types of equipment could have disastrous consequences, legislation has been put in place to govern the manufacture, use and maintenance of such equipment and prevent accidents that might result in injuries.

Companies that ensure their equipment is safe and inspected as prescribed by law, minimise the likelihood of accidents that could lead to the heavy costs of unplanned replacements, litigation, downtime as investigations are carried out, low morale among employees and a shattered business reputation.

Good maintenance systems supervised by a responsible person and periodic inspections prolong the useful life of equipment.

There are specific legal requirements for steam boilers, closed vessels subject to internal pressures, hoists, cranes, lifting machines, scaffolds, refrigeration plants, elevators and escalators.

All steam boilers, except those at mines and those used by the National Railways of Zimbabwe, have to be registered with the factories and works inspectorate department.

Users of boilers are required to have them serviced by the government authorised service companies. A boiler has to be subjected to an internal or external inspection annually and a hydraulic pressure test every three years or after major repairs.

A commissioning inspection must be witnessed by a government factories and works inspector before the boiler is put to use for the first time and after annual service or repairs.

All closed vessels subjected to internal pressures higher or lower than atmospheric pressure are generally required to be inspected at regular intervals of not more than two years.

The inspections, according to pressure vessel regulations, must be carried out by a qualified person or competent person appointed by the user in writing and approved by the chief inspector of factories.

No repairs may be effected on a pressure vessel without the prior approval of the inspector. The inspector may set a new working pressure after repairs to a pressure vessel.

Goods hoists, which are elevators or lifting devices used solely for the transportation of goods or materials, must be inspected every three months. The entire installation must be inspected by a competent person who has to record the results in a book kept by the user for that purpose. The inspector must be appointed by the user in writing.

Cranes have to be inspected before they are used and at least once every calendar month thereafter by a competent person appointed by the user. The owner is required to keep a register in which the results of every such inspection are recorded and signed by the competent person.

All lifting machines and hooks, slings, chains or ropes which are part of the lifting machines must be examined every three months by a competent person, who should record the results in a register kept for this purpose.

Scaffolds can be dangerous, unless looked after properly. The collapse of scaffolds and falls from scaffolding are a major cause of deaths among construction workers. A scaffold must be constructed and inspected by a competent person at least once a week and after bad weather. The inspection results have to be logged in a book kept for that purpose.

Refrigeration plants with a rated heat extraction capacity of 20 tonnes refrigeration or more must be examined and tested once every three months by a competent person nominated by the user.

The owner or user of elevators and escalators is required to nominate a government authorised competent person or a company that employs such competent persons to examine all their safety appliances, including drums, sheaves, motors, ropes and guides at least once every week.

The entire elevator or escalator plant and fittings must be examined at least once every month. Record books for each plant must be kept, in which the competent person must enter the results of each examination.

At least once every year and when major repairs are carried out each elevator must be inspected by a government inspector for compliance with the regulations.

Apart from the above mentioned equipment, certain types of machines and equipment have been specifically mentioned in the regulations as requiring special attention when they are used. These include grinding machines, shears, guillotines, presses, slitting and milling machines, mixing and agitating machines, rolls and welding machines.

If a proper maintenance system is put in place under the charge of a competent or qualified responsible person, then most, if not all, accidents due to unsafe conditions caused by machine defects will be prevented. However, further instructive programmes are essential to prevent accidents that arise from unsafe acts by workers or any other person in the workplace.

Machinery is generally safe, if well looked after. It makes good business sense to properly look after the equipment that makes the company tick.

A company’s management should put in place a comprehensive maintenance programme for all plant and machinery, taking note especially of the statutory obligations pertaining to specific equipment.

Workers should take great care when using machinery. If the machinery is well maintained and used in the correct manner there should be few, if any, accidents.

lTalking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. Readers can email issues they would like dealt with in this column to or text them to 0735 041 278. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523-5.

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