Safe Maintenance

This provides information on safe maintenance.

One in three workplace deaths are caused by unsafe maintenance

Maintenance is carried out on buildings, plant, equipment and vehicles to enable it to perform the function required of it. Corrective (repair/break-down) and ongoing preventative maintenance tasks are carried out in all sectors and all workplaces.

Maintenance includes preventative routine actions such as cleaning, lubrication, inspection and thorough examination. It includes corrective actions when a fault is detected or a break-down occurs such as repairs, replacing parts or clearing blockages.

Focus on asbestos, work at heights and isolation when carrying out maintenance work. These priority areas are the biggest contributors to illness and accidents.

What is maintenance?

There are two types of maintenance activities:

  1. Preventative - routine actions such as cleaning, lubrication, inspection and thorough examination necessary to keep the item in good working order
  2. Corrective - actions taken when a fault is detected or a break down occurs, such as repairs, replacing parts or clearing blockages

Where is maintenance done?

Maintenance is carried out on buildings, plant, equipment and vehicles.

How is maintenance done?

Maintenance must be performed in a safe way, with appropriate protection of workers and other people present in the workplace.

Preventative and corrective maintenance activities:


  • inspection, measuring, observing, testing
  • condition monitoring - usually in operating state (continuous, regular intervals of time or number of operations)
  • compliance testing
  • routine - for example cleaning, tightening of connections, lubrication, adjustment, upkeep, checking liquid levels, replacement of parts
  • servicing
  • overhaul - comprehensive set of preventative maintenance actions; may require complete or partial dismantling
  • renovation
  • thorough examination


  • fault detection
  • repair
  • replacement of parts

Why is it an issue?

Maintenance-related accidents are a serious cause of concern. Without proper maintenance things can go dramatically wrong in the workplace.

Regular maintenance is essential to keep equipment, machines and the work environment safe and reliable.

Maintenance is particularly hazardous because:

  • it can often involve many of the most dangerous activities such as work at height, disturbing asbestos, working with electricity and work with dangerous equipment
  • it is often done on an adhoc basis without a proper risk assessment having been carried out for the maintenance work itself
  • a significant amount of maintenance work is done by contractors who are not always familiar with the particular workplace
  • it is easy to overlook - without regular maintenance, things can go badly wrong causing death or serious injury

The facts

Saves time:

  • time is saved by good preventative maintenance that keeps the working environment, buildings and machinery both safe and reliable

Saves money:

  • maintenance is critical to ensure continuous productivity, to deliver products of high quality and to keep a company competitive

Saves lives:

  • statistics prove maintenance is a high-risk activity, with maintenance workers more likely than other employees to be exposed to a range of hazards
  • in 2009/2010, one third of NI's workplace fatalities were related to maintenance

Assess you business

Assess this question honestly - Is maintenance managed safely in your workplace?

Do you or your managers take the time to observe how Maintenance tasks are managed within your own working environment? It is good practice for managers and supervisors to consult and plan with their own staff and contractors before any maintenance tasks are carried out. They need to make their expectations or outcome of carrying out a particular task crystal clear. 

As well as observing maintenance tasks, check for suitable and sufficient risk assessments, safe systems of work, effective communication, a safe work area, correct equipment (as appropriate) and final checks being carried out on job completion.

If you feel that maintenance is managed safely then it is highly likely that:

  • you have good plans and a safe system of work in place to control the hazards
  • a safe work area where the hazards are isolated from the workers and others
  • you use the right equipment (in good condition) for the task
  • your employees and contractors work according to the plan
  • there is a final check done to ensure the workplace is left in a safe condition following completion of the maintenance task

However, if you feel that it is not managed safely then you need to take action promptly.

As a starting step, follow the five basic rules and use the maintenance questions below (as a tool to help businesses assess risks), so that you can save time, save money and save lives.

Five basic rules

  1. Planning
  2. Making the work area safe
  3. Using appropriate equipment
  4. Working as planned
  5. Making final checks