Emergency maintenance refers to any type of maintenance task that becomes necessary when people’s lives, property, or assets are under immediate threat. For example, performing emergency maintenance to fix a gas leak in an apartment building, or shutting off an overheated machine in a manufacturing plant to prevent a fire from breaking out.
Also known as breakdown maintenance, emergency maintenance is a type of unscheduled maintenance that must be performed immediately. An emergency may require non-technicians to evacuate the building and stop all other activities because it poses a serious risk to worker safety and production continuity.
What constitutes an emergency?
Any type of facility, be it an industrial plant or residential building, must have very clear procedures for dealing with emergencies. Emergency maintenance means an immediate danger must be resolved, regardless of whether the incident occurs on a weekend or a holiday. If a flood occurs on a shop floor that is full of electrical equipment, that triggers a fire hazard. Human error, lack of competence, and machine failure are the top causes of emergencies.
Correctly classifying an emergency as such is crucial to handling emergencies with an appropriate level of urgency. Under-prioritizing emergency maintenance can result in injury or even death, not to mention legal repercussions, while treating non-emergencies as emergencies creates unnecessary costs and revenue loss.
Here are other examples of emergencies:
- A flood occurs near electrical equipment
- Protective guards fail on a machine with hazardous moving parts
- Service outages
- Air conditioning going out in extreme heat
- Burst pipes
Tip: Before you come up with an emergency plan, make a list of the type of emergency incidents that may occur so you can create a plan for each one.
Emergency Maintenance Examples
Emergency maintenance can be triggered in a number of different ways. For example, equipment sensors might detect an abnormality, or someone might alert the maintenance manager that smoke is issuing from a piece of heavy machinery.
Occurs when an automatic system shuts down without human intervention in order to prevent damage to equipment. For example, when a gas utility experiences a drop in a gas delivery subcomponent, the valves close to prevent uncontrolled escape. Or a machine might shut off automatically to prevent overheating. If the equipment is IoT (Internet of Things)-connected, it may generate a maintenance request on its own, which auto-populates up in your work order management system or CMMS.
Occurs when electronic maintenance requests are sent in response to a serious failure condition such as a malfunctioning elevator.
Occurs when someone reports an issue through a work order request portal or other means, or someone reports an issue orally to the person in charge, who then generates a work order. Regardless of what type of emergency reporting system you use, you need to a CMMS to record each incident and build a digital trail of emergency maintenance over time. This data is an important resource as it provides insights into where your current maintenance strategy may be failing. This information can be used for continuous improvement. A CMMS also facilitates the processing of an emergency request as it can send out alerts to all technicians via mobile app or automatically generate an emergency work order.
How to Handle Emergency Maintenance
Get the damage and danger under control (Eg: evacuate the area or switch off the electricity), investigate the problem with a root cause analysis, and then repair or replace the equipment.
Different types of emergencies should be handled differently, so make you’ve outlined this before.
How to Reduce Emergency Maintenance
Plan for Emergencies
Make a list of possible emergencies. Identify the difference between emergency maintenance and urgent maintenance.
Outline workflows. What is the procedure for submitting a maintenance emergency request? Which technicians are qualified to handle emergencies? Do you have the required parts and tools on hand to perform emergency maintenance? How do you go about performing a root cause analysis to determine the nature of the problem and how to repair the system?
Outline emergency maintenance procedures. Assess the situation and damage, notify the right people, and isolate the danger.
Create a Preventive Maintenance Strategy
Preventive maintenance keeps equipment in optimal working condition by inspecting or fixing assets in advance of anticipated failure, thereby reducing the incidence of emergencies. All proactive maintenance strategies reduce emergencies, including condition-based maintenance, predictive maintenance, and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). Enforcing these strategies using a CMMS gives you total control over your maintenance and reduces the chances of building up a maintenance backlog or overlooking maintenance.
“A factory with a large variety of water piping creates an emergency maintenance plan for burst pipes. The need for the plan is clear as a burst pipe in a floor full of electrical equipment can be a significant health and profitability hazard for the organization and its employees. In tandem with this plan, the factory decides to further flesh out preventive maintenance inspections on the piping to lower the risk of an emergency occurring.”
Have Properly Trained Technicians and Machine Operators
Avoid understaffing at all costs because it can lead to a maintenance backlog. A backlog indicates that equipment that is already in need of maintenance is continuing to operate, which could lead to imminent failure. Not having a maintenance backlog speeds up the response time when emergency maintenance is needed as it’s easier to quickly find labor.
Define Clear SOPs and Maintenance Checklists Technicians Can Follow
Most emergencies stem from human error. Technicians must have clear instructions to follow when performing routine maintenance tasks. Sometimes, mistakes made during an inspection or a missed detail can lead to catastrophe down the line. Maintenance checklists should include an itemized list of discrete maintenance tasks required to restore the asset to optimal working conditions. Detailed checklists may require having a professional visit you onsite to assess your plant and review construction drawings. Maintenance checklists are converted into maintenance schedules once they are placed into a calendar.
Use Replacement Parts From Original Manufacturer
Using high-quality replacement parts is essential to keeping your equipment in good working condition and to avoiding emergency maintenance situations as much as possible. A faulty part, such as a loose bearing, can create a fire hazard or other mechanical liability. Manufacturers will often try to keep down the cost of replacing parts by using suppliers that are not pre-approved by the manufacturers, but this can backfire as the parts may not be optimized for that specific asset.
Using Machinery and Equipment According to OEM Recommendations
Carefully read instruction manuals from the manufacturer regarding proper equipment usage. Running a machine past its recommended runtime or using an asset for something other than its intended purpose can be dangerous.
How a CMMS Can Help
A CMMS is essential to coordinating emergency maintenance requests. It not only serves as a repository for keeping a digital trail of emergency work orders, but it can help you plan, schedule and execute preventive maintenance so that you never need to perform emergency maintenance.
Emergency Maintenance vs Reactive Maintenance
Reactive maintenance refers to all unplanned maintenance that occurs in response to equipment failure. However, reactive maintenance does not necessarily constitute an emergency. For example, say a vehicle is critically low on oil. While driving it continuously could cause irreversible engine damage, it won’t necessarily jeopardize the driver’s life.
While this means maintenance is urgently required, it is not considered an emergency. The difference between reactive and emergency maintenance is in the timing and urgency of repairs. Reactive maintenance occurs to maintenance that is done when equipment has already broken down.
Emergency Maintenance vs Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance is designed to eliminate the need for emergency maintenance. Typically reserved for high-value assets, preventive maintenance consists of of performing maintenance and inspections on an asset at predefined intervals— typically based on usage or time. While preventive maintenance presents a high upfront cost, it keeps equipment in optimal working conditions and reduces the risk of unscheduled breakdowns.
Unlike emergency maintenance, preventive maintenance is a type of planned maintenance. It must be scheduled correctly so as to avoid the risk of over-maintaining an asset (which leads to unnecessarily high maintenance costs) or under-maintaining an asset (which can lead to equipment failure).
If you find yourself having to perform emergency maintenance on an asset that is already on a preventive maintenance plan, then you must be re-evaluate the timing and frequency of your PM plan, as well as what parts are being used and how well-trained your technicians are. Failure in any of these areas can cause a PM plan to fail.