Safe maintenance - get it right

This page outlines the five basic rules for maintenance, indicates some of the costs to businesses and the relevant legislation.

Good occupational safety and health management is at the core of safe and healthy maintenance. The specific details of maintenance vary between industry sectors and depending on tasks. But there are some common principles:

  • integration of OSH management into maintenance management
  • structured approach based on risk assessment
  • clear roles and responsibilities
  • safe systems of work and clear guidelines to follow
  • adequate training and equipment
  • involvement of workers in the risk assessment and maintenance management process

Managing contractors: A guide for employer - HSE(GB)

Use of contractors, a joint responsibility (pdf format) - HSE(GB)

Five basic rules

These are the five basic rules that should be followed:

1.  Planning

Maintenance should start with proper planning.  Consulting workers and keeping them informed is vital throughout the planning stage including involvement in preparing risk assessments.

2.  Making the work area safe

Secure the work area to prevent unauthorised access, for example, by using barriers and signs.

3.  Using appropriate equipment

Employers must provide the right tools and equipment for the job (with appropriate instructions in using it), in appropriate condition and suitable for the work environment.

4.  Working as planned

The work should be monitored by the person in charge so that the agreed safe systems of work and sites rules are observed.

5.  Making final checks

The maintenance process ends with checks:

  • has the task been completed?
  • has the item under maintenance been left in a safe condition?
  • has all waste material been cleaned away?

When all is checked and declared safe, then the maintenance task is complete and normal operations can restart.

Costs to businesses

Insurance policies may not cover all aspects of an accident or injury. 

The policy may only pay out for a serious injury or illness, or the policy excess may be more than the amount needed to pay, leaving company owners to find the money out of their profits.

The "extra costs" not covered by the insurance policy may include:

  • lost production time
  • sick pay
  • overtime
  • loss of a contract
  • legal costs
  • damage or loss of product
  • repairs to equipment etc

These hidden or uninsured costs are not immediately easy to see or accounted for - they may be between £8 and £36 for every £1 covered by insurance.

A poor claims record will affect a businesses' insurance premium. The premium may increase or, at worst, an insurance company may refuse to provide cover.

An employee in a small engineering company was injured when using an unguarded drill. This cost the company a total of £45,000. The company was working on a 3% profit margin and had to increase turnover by £1.5 million just to cover the costs.


Click on the legislation links below relating to safe maintenance:

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.