Safe Maintenance

Ron came to work ready to go, just like every other day. As a millwright, he was assigned to a team tasked with preparing an area for installation of new equipment the next day. The team included five millwrights who were present at the job site; all were wearing standard, skilled trade PPE. The team began removing a piece of steel H-beam that was 10′ long, 8″ in depth. The beam weighed approximately 200 pounds and was located 12′ above the floor. A formal pre-task analysis was not completed because the work was considered routine and not high risk.

Two scissor lifts were moved into place to access each end of the H-beam in the overhead location. A forklift was brought into position between both scissor lifts to support the beam during its removal.

  • Millwright A went up in a scissor lift to remove the hanger bolts on the north side of the H-beam. Millwright B used the other lift to position himself to cut the south end of the beam.
  • Millwright C positioned the forklift between the two scissor lifts to support the beam during removal. The forks were raised against the bottom of the H-beam. Millwright C set the park brake, turned off and exited the forklift, and left it to support the beam.
  • Ron was observing a scissors lift and most likely acting as a grounds person for the millwright removing the hanger bolts.


Millwright A proceeded to remove the hanger bolts from the compression clip located on the north side header steel. The compression clip, weighing approximately 30 pounds, remained on the beam.

At the same time, Millwright B started torch cutting the south end of the H-beam. He stopped the cut halfway through because hot slag had accumulated on the floor and needed to cool. After the slag cooled, Millwright B began cutting again.

As the beam was cut through, it tipped up and slid off the forks, falling and striking Ron in the head and left shoulder. Ron died a short time later from his injuries.

An investigation of the incident later found the procedure used to secure the beam during removal was inadequate. It pointed to a failure in planning for rigging and lifting of the load.

  • Not accurately determining the total weight of the load (weight of compression clip not considered)
  • Not considering the weight of the compression clip staying on the beam when identifying the center of the load
  • Not properly positioning the forks under the center of the load and failing to secure the beam to the forks


Regardless of what we might think of these findings, it’s important to remember each of these people came to work intent on doing a good job that day – a good job for themselves, their team and the company. They relied on decades of experience the team had as millwrights and thousands of jobs done safely in the past. No one planned for this to happen.

Maintenance and repair tasks occur many times each day and are critical to safe, efficient and productive work in our industrial workplaces. However, maintenance work can be hazardous. It often involves dangerous activities such as working at heights, with electricity, or on dangerous equipment. Although some tasks are routine or preventive, maintenance work often occurs when things break down. When things break down, there can be great pressure to find a fix and get production running again.

Sadly, statistics show those involved in maintenance work are injured or killed at a much higher rate than others in our workplaces.

Workers who perform maintenance, installation and repair tasks account for 15% – 20% of all injuries in Europe. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4,836 died at work in 2015. Workers involved in maintenance, installation and repair suffered fatal injuries at a rate more than twice that of other workers.

  • All fatalities
    • 4,836 total fatalities
    • 3.4 fatal work injuries/100,000 full-time equivalent workers

  • Maintenance, installation & repair
    • 392 total fatalities
    • 7.6 fatal work injuries/100,000 full-time equivalent workers

  • Production
    • 250 total fatalities
    • 3.0  fatal work injuries/100,000 full-time equivalent workers

There are many ways to prepare for performing maintenance tasks. Most include some aspect of the five basic rules for safe maintenance put forth by the European Agency for Health and Safety. Each of these is vital to safety, especially for those unplanned or emergency repairs:

  • Planning
  • Making the work area safe
  • Using appropriate equipment
  • Working as planned
  • Making final checks


At LDI, we are working to help employers ensure their maintenance and skilled trades workers have the knowledge and skills needed to perform tasks safely and successfully every time.

We are premiering our Safe Maintenance Series (SMS) ™ in the spring of 2018. This series presents three core classes that cover:

  • MI Safety – A Path for Leadership
  • Planning Maintenance Work – Pre-task Risk Assessment
  • Lessons Learned – Learning from our Success


We also offer specific safety training to support maintenance and skilled trades workers.

  • OSHA 10-Hour & 30-Hour Outreach Training in General Industry
  • OSHA 10-Hour & 30-Hour Outreach Training in Construction
  • Lockout/Tagout Authorized Worker
  • Lockout/Tagout Program Administration
  • Machine and Machinery Safeguarding
  • Confined Space Entry & Rescue
  • Electrical Safe Work Practices NFPA 70E
  • Industrial Lifting & Rigging Safety
Want to more information on the safe maintenance series?

Want to learn more about other health & safety topics?

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