The Checker Blog

Why You Should Inspect Cranes More Than You Have To

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Wed, May 23, 2018 @ 09:51 AM

crane-3327878_1920

When I talk to management for companies that use cranes, I always ask, “Do you inspect your cranes?”

An answer I often here is, “Of course, we do. We inspect them when we get them. And we inspect them again every year, as required.”

Standards vary worldwide, but OSHA’s rules for the U.S. are illustrative. A company can be in compliance with OSHA’s regulations for overhead and gantry cranes by conducting only one complete crane inspection a year.  

OSHA does require operators to daily keep an eye out for:

  • Maladjustment of any operating mechanism that interferes with proper operation
  • Deterioration or leakage in lines, tanks, valves, drain pumps, and other parts of air or hydraulic systems
  • Hooks with deformation or cracks
  • Hoist chains that are worn, twisted, or stretched beyond manufacturer recommendations
  • Excessive wear of any component.

 

But these aren’t necessarily formal inspections (i.e., documented, with each component of the crane clearly passing or failing). A formal inspection of the hoist chains is required monthly, but the other “inspections” can be done by simply looking to make sure there are no issues.

Depending on the activity, severity of service, and environment, formal inspections may be required more often than annually, but in normal conditions, once a year satisfies OSHA’s requirements. That’s just not enough. Annual inspections may keep regulators off your back (as long as no incidents occur), but inspecting cranes that infrequently is simply bad business.

Regulations about crane inspections shouldn’t even have to be put into writing. They’re beyond common sense—like don’t walk in the middle of a busy road. The potential cost of a crane accident is so far beyond the labor involved in conducting very frequent and documented crane inspections that’s it’s not even a close decision.

With a few minutes of inspecting a day, using inspection checklists for cranes, you can ensure that crane operators are actually doing their daily inspections. Plus, the completed checklists serve as documents confirming “no negligence” if anything terrible does happen.

Heavy machines and heavy loads, with humans and property all around—much is at risk. Why not reduce that risk as much as possible?

Takeaway

When it comes to crane safety, doing only the minimum inspecting required is risky business.  Using inspection checklists to conduct frequent crane inspections pays off by protecting against the potentially enormous human suffering and financial costs associated with crane failures.

Topics: safety management, legal compliance, equipment maintenance, inspections and profitability, vehicle safety

Preparing for IIoT with Technology that Benefits You Now

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 @ 11:23 AM

industry-2496189_1920

The so-called “Internet of Things” is changing the way we live. 

The phrase essentially refers to everyday items—things you wear, vehicles, home appliances, etc.—that are connected to the internet. The Internet of Things allows consumers to wear health-monitoring devices, remotely control appliances in their home, and drive cars that always know where they are and what the traffic is like ahead. 

Eventually, virtually every physical aspect of our lives will be connected to the internet in some way. 

In industries such as manufacturing, the Internet of Things is often referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The IIoT will have a transformative effect on how products are manufactured, sold, and distributed. Combined with emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, the IIoT will enable greater efficiencies than ever before possible as machines become increasingly “smart.” 

But what does this have to do with your operation now?  

Maybe not a lot, at the moment. For most businesses, the IIoT is still largely in the future. The technology is not yet evolved enough for widespread full-scale adoption of IIoT solutions 

But you can begin to prepare for the IIoT revolution. By adopting other computing technologies that can help you increase efficiencies and develop a company culture that’s technologically friendly, you can keep pace on the road toward technological transformation. 

For example, an area in which many companies can move forward technologically is their audits and inspections. Companies that are still using paper for their audits and inspections can adopt a software solution such as The Checker Software. 

You’ll gain immediate benefits, such as improved accuracy; faster, foolproof communication of results; instant creation of corrective action steps; easy monitoring of progress toward resolution; and automatic documentation archiving for compliance and analysis purposes. 

The Checker Software is cloud-based software that requires no complicated setup or major investment, but it is a solution that can immediately allow you to embrace technology to improve efficiency (and safety). 

The full potential of the IIoT may not be realized for years, but you don’t have to wait to begin taking advantage of technology. Steps such as implementing The Checker Software for audits and inspections can help you develop the technological mindset that will be necessary to succeed in the coming years. 

Takeaway 

Don’t wait for the maturation of the IIoT to begin looking for technological solutions to improve your business. Existing technology like The Checker Software can benefit you now, while helping you prepare you for the technology of the future. 

Topics: safety management, inspection software, equipment maintenance, vehicle safety, audit software

Are You Ready For Summer?

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 @ 09:33 AM

 

lawnmower-384589_1920

Many people think of summer as a time for vacations, enjoying the outdoors, and relishing the long, lazy days. 

But in some industries, such as construction and landscaping, summer is anything but a time to take it easy. Instead, it’s the busiest time of the year.  

That means that vehicles, equipment, and other assets that have gone unused during the cold months will be called upon again. 

Before they can be used, they will need to be inspected to ensure they’re in good, safe working order. And they’ll need to be regularly inspected as they’re used to ensure they continue to be safe and operate as they should. 

If you use inspection checklists such as The Checker to facilitate your inspections, now’s the time to order more if you don’t have them for the assets you’ll begin using again—or if you don’t have enough to get through the summer.  

The Checker inspection checklist books are designed to guide personnel through inspections of hundreds of different types of assets, with detail specific to each type of asset. They make it easier for personnel to conduct audits or inspections, while increasing accuracy and providing documentation of compliance with internal and regulatory standards. 

If the assets haven’t been inspected over the winter, The Checker can serve as a reminder of what to check for each asset. And for personnel who’ve never used the assets, the checklists can educate them about what needs to be checked. 

In those industries where summer is the busy season, there’s a lot to do to prepare for the heightened workload. Don’t forget about the inspecting you need to do, or the tools you need to do it the right way. 

Takeaway 

The Checker inspection checklists make it much easier to prepare assets for increased work during the warm part of the year. If you don’t have them in stock, order now.  

Topics: why inspect?, safety awareness, equipment maintenance, vehicle safety, equipment safety

Don't Wait For Problems - Solve Them!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Tue, Apr 03, 2018 @ 10:02 AM

 

safety-shoes“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” may be a wise saying in many cases. But not if it’s taken to mean, “If it ain’t broke, don’t do anything to it.”

Reactive maintenance—waiting for vehicles or equipment to break down before giving them maintenance attention—is clearly not the smart strategy. The short-term cost of providing routine, proactive preventive maintenance is almost always negligible compared to the costs of an on-the-job breakdown.

Just think about the last major breakdown your company had. Did you have any of these costs associated with it:

  • a more-expensive repair than if the problem had been detected earlier?
  • damage that could have been prevented?
  • production downtime?
  • overtime for repair or catching operations up to schedule?
  • penalties for falling behind schedule?
  • replacement equipment?
  • lost opportunity for other work?

Wouldn’t it have been far less expensive if you had detected the problem that caused the breakdown before the equipment broke down?

And preventive maintenance has other benefits in addition to minimizing the disruptions of breakdowns. Preventive maintenance also helps reduce costs by:

  • extending the useful life of assets
  • increasing energy efficiency
  • minimizing the risk of non-compliance with health and safety regulations
  • enabling lower-cost, bulk procurement of spare parts in advance
  • allowing for the alignment of scheduled maintenance with downtime and slower production periods.

If you do an honest assessment of your maintenance program and determine it’s mostly reactive, the good news is that you have an ideal opportunity to significantly improve your business.

 

The Role of Inspections

As you seek to lower maintenance costs with a preventive strategy, it’s important to understand that preventive maintenance involves more than the maintenance department. Preventive maintenance requires company-wide policies and processes that identify issues before they escalate into more-costly problems.

Audits and inspections are a primary component of this proactive approach. Not only do they identify defects earlier than waiting for a breakdown, they provide insight into the cause of recurring problems so they can be corrected (e.g., if defects repeatedly occur after a specific operation, you can look to determine if there’s a way to improve the operation to prevent the defects from occurring).  

Inspection checklists are a tool that empowers all personnel responsible for inspecting assets to play a vital role in preventive maintenance. Checklists such as those in The Checker inspection books or The Checker Software guide personnel as they conduct inspections, ensuring that they check everything that needs to be inspected. All defects will be discovered early, when they can be addressed less expensively.

The Role of Management

Management support of preventive maintenance is essential for the strategy to work. Preventive policies and procedures must be followed, and without management support that adherence becomes far less likely. For example, if personnel aren’t mandated to correctly complete inspection checklists, there’s a good chance they won’t.

Unfortunately, management often views maintenance as a cost—not as an opportunity to cut costs. This view leads to short-sighted decisions such as cutting the current maintenance budget rather than seeking a solution to permanently lower maintenance costs.

On the other hand, management that understands the long-term cost savings of preventive maintenance can give their company a meaningful competitive advantage over companies still in a reactive mode.

Takeaway

Reactive maintenance results in costs that could be avoided. Preventive maintenance tools such as inspection checklists help a company eliminate these costs and run a more-efficient maintenance program.

Topics: workplace safety, OSHA, inspections and profitability, safety audits, audit software

If an Inspection Needs to Be Done, Do It!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 @ 03:06 PM

checklist-2023731_1280.png

Audits and inspections keep people safe and help businesses run more efficiently, and so we want to encourage our customers to do more of them … not less.

That’s why we when we sell The Checker Software audit/inspection checklists, we don’t charge in the traditional way—per checklist used. This pricing model disincentives organizations from doing all the inspections they should be doing. That’s the last thing we want to do.

Instead, with The Checker Software, you can use as many of our checklists as you need, at no extra cost for each checklist (up to a maximum limit that makes sense for your business).

The cost of checklists is minimal compared with the benefits derived, but nonetheless, we don’t want anyone to cut back on audits and inspections to save money in the short-term. Our goal is to help our customers succeed, so we want them to do being conducting all the audits and inspections they need to be.

With The Checker Software, you can also add as many users as required, with no extra cost per user. If someone needs access, they can have it without any concern about extra spend.

We believe this approach to pricing is consistent with our mission to promote the use of audits and inspections to increase safety, reduce risk, lower insurance premiums, lower maintenance costs, and provide multiple other business benefits.

Takeaway

With The Checker Software, you never have to worry about cost when deciding whether to conduct an audit or inspection that should be done.

Topics: workplace safety, OSHA, inspections and profitability, safety audits, audit software

Safety Regulators Aren’t Playing Around About Workplace Safety

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 @ 12:05 PM

handcuffs-2102488_1280.jpg

How serious is workplace safety becoming? 

Well, it’s always been serious, because human lives and welfares are at stake. But now it’s becoming an increasingly serious business risk. 

Starting just a few months ago (Dec. 14, 2017), Ontario increased the maximum fines for failing to meet workplace health and standards from $500,000 to $1.5 million for corporations. (For individuals and unincorporated businesses, the increase was from $25,000 to $100,000.) 

In Ontario, any fine issued—including Ministry of Labour penalties—is also accompanied by a Victim of Crime surcharge, which is 25 percent of any fine more than $1,000. So, the $ 1.5 million maximum corporate fine would actually be $1.875 million. 

That’s serious money! 

Realistically, fines for an offence under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (or under U.S. OSHA) rarely rise to the maximum amount, but the point is made with the increase. The Ontario Ministry of Labour apparently believes fines haven’t been stiff enough.  

So, it’s a fair assumption that all fines will increase, regardless of the severity of the offense. 

The Ministry of Labour has already been active in enforcing safety—conducting more than 79,800 visits to 34,700 workplaces in 2016-17, issuing more than 118,000 orders due to non-compliance. In 2016, the courts imposed more than $11 million in fines, and many businesses aren’t looking forward to the prospect of even higher fines. 

However, Ontario’s action, while it could initially be seen as a threat, is actually good news for businesses that already understand the business value of safety and have been actively seeking to gain it. The risk of higher fines is a competitive disadvantage for their competitors lagging in safety. 

It’s heartening to see the Ministry of Labour take a meaningful step to reinforce the importance of keeping workers and the public safe. 

Our hope is that all companies take notice. Those that do will improve not just safety but their entire business. Those that don’t should be worried because regulators seem resolute in increasing the cost of non-compliance. 

A proven way to improve workplace safety and minimize the risk of regulatory fines is to routinely conduct safety audits and inspections using checklists. The Checker inspection checklist books can be used to guide and document proper audits and inspections—a strong step toward gaining the many business benefits of safety, including compliance. The Checker Software can do the same while also providing the tools to develop a comprehensive audit/inspection program that extracts all the available value from audits and inspections. 

Topics: workplace safety, OSHA, legal compliance, inspections and profitability, safety audits

A $50 book could save you $50,000

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 @ 09:37 AM

money-163502_1280.jpg

We were recently approached by a municipality looking for inspection checklist books. Something bad had happened, and now they were focusing on inspections.

They had a front-end loader they used at a dump site. The loader never left that site, and it was never touched by  maintenance. And no one was inspecting it to see if it needed to be! They weren’t even checking its fluid levels on a regular basis.

Not surprisingly, the fluid levels fell too low, and the loader’s engine overheated, causing serious damage to the engine.

After they got the $50,000 repair bill, they couldn’t believe they had been so negligent as to not check the fluid levels. “What were we thinking,” they bemoaned to us.

Unfortunately, stories like that are common. In an effort to save a little money and time in the short-term, organizations neglect to do audits and inspections that could prevent large losses in the future.

This organization wanted to make sure nothing like the loader debacle ever occurred again, and they had correctly decided that using inspection checklists would be an important step in maturing their inspection policies and procedures.

Inspection checklists aren’t a magic solution that will ensure necessary audits and inspections are done. If they’re not used, they’re obviously not going to help.

However, with checklist-usage requirements in place, checklists are a low-cost tool to support any effort to improve audit and inspection policies. They can be used by personnel to make sure they check everything that needs to be checked while documenting the inspections at the same time.

The Checker inspection checklist books average only about $50 (with volume pricing available to lower the cost even more). And we have more than 100  different books—each one created for a specific type of asset. These are not the generic checklists you may have seen (e.g., a vehicle inspection checklist that could be for a car, truck, or off-road vehicle). Our checklists have all the detail necessary to guide proper inspections.

Each book contains 150 inspection checklists, or enough to last for at least half a year in a single-shift operation. That’s a lot of inspection support for not a lot of money.

Spending $50 for a half-year’s worth of protection against the costs of asset failure (not to mention the costs of regulatory non-compliance) is a lot better than choking on a $50,000 bill!

Takeaway

Small spending on audit/inspection tools such as The Checker inspection checklist books (or The Checker Software via the cloud) is good business because the costs of insufficient inspecting can be dramatically high—many, many multiples of the small amount it costs to improve your inspecting.

Topics: legal compliance, equipment maintenance, vehicle safety, safety audits

If a Workplace Accident Occurs, Do You Have a Defensible Position?

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

gavel-statue-2771088_1920.jpg

We often talk about “being compliant” because our audit/inspection software and inspection checklist books are designed to keep you compliant with applicable health and safety regulations.

However, we’re aware that achieving “100 percent” compliance is a considerable, perhaps impossible, challenge. Even if you’re using tools like The Checker and are providing proper training and incentivization for a strong health and safety program, there’s always the possibility of human error, of someone accidentally doing something that’s against regulations. And sometimes personnel just don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

That’s why (while perfect compliance is always the goal), it’s important to value the concept of having a “defensible position” if anything goes wrong. In general (not legally specific) terms, what this means is that you can demonstrate that you’ve made a good faith effort to do everything practical to keep your personnel and the public safe.

Of course, there are very precise requirements from regulatory agencies like OSHA, and if you haven’t met one of these requirements when you’re inspected—or when an accident occurs—you are liable to substantial fines. But the amount of these fines (and sometimes whether you get a warning or a fine) is clearly influenced by your defensible position—how well you’re able to prove that your company has done its best to keep the workplace safe and healthy and that the infraction wasn’t due to organizational negligence.

This defensible position is also critical if your company ends up in court, fighting charges or lawsuits claiming negligence.

The good news is that compliance solutions have benefits beyond creating a defensible position. First and most importantly, striving for compliance helps keep people safe. For example, auditing or inspecting assets with The Checker satisfies regulatory requirements and provides ready documentation of compliance, but also keeps unsafe equipment from being used and hurting people.

And more often that not, compliance solutions lead to process and quality improvements that benefit the bottom line. Think about the value of discovering a defect that needs immediate correction to avoid a productivtity-sapping breakage during the next shift. Or consider how inspection results can be used to identify the durability of a particular brand of asset. In ways like this, and many others, compliance correlates with efficiency.

So, never stop pursuing compliance but realize that even if you never achieve 100 percent compliance, your pursuit will result in a defensible position that can save major dollars. And understand that the pursuit will keep your personnel and the public safer, while likely increasing profitability.

Takeaway

You can never ensure perfect compliance, but with compliance tools like The Checker you can ensure that you’re doing all you can to be compliant, have a defensible position in case you’re accused of negligence, and are reaping the many associated benefits of compliance efforts.

Topics: legal compliance, inspection software, safety audits, audit software

Telematics Software Isn’t All You Need to Manage Your Vehicles

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Thu, Feb 01, 2018 @ 12:30 PM

industry-2496192_1920.jpg

Telematics software is a powerful tool for fleet management, but it’s not a sufficient solution for managing vehicle inspections.

With its remote diagnostic capabilities, telematics can help with identifying vehicle performance problems, such as a vehicle’s current fuel efficiency, but it can’t replace the need for a visual inspection. Telematics isn’t going to tell you, for example, that there’s a crack in the bucket of a backhoe.

Much telematics software isn’t even designed to provide useful information about a vehicle’s condition. Instead, it is designed to monitor driver behavior, such as location, average speed, braking tendencies, fuel usage, and idle times.

However, some telematics software does monitor conditions relative to maintenance, such as the level of oil and other fluids. Some solutions can even be used to intelligently schedule preventative maintenance based on a vehicle’s condition and shop resources.

But even the telematics software designed to facilitate predictive maintenance isn’t designed to ensure compliance and documentation of inspections performed. Just because a vehicle can automatically communicate its condition doesn’t free you from the obligation to conduct and document inspections as legally required.

Ideally, a telematics solution that provides diagnostic data about a vehicle’s condition would be used in conjunction with audit/inspection software designed specifically to guide, document, and report vehicle inspections.

The telematics software can help maintenance personnel keep on top of important vehicle metrics, while a robust audit/inspection software solution (e.g., The Checker Software) can be used to detect defects that are undetectable by telematics software, as well as to provide readily available inspection documentation for compliance and liability-minimizing purposes.

In addition, you can instantly communicate results to the people you choose, add notes and pictures, and assign tasks to resolve defects. And the inspection data you gather is not only important to demonstrate your commitment to safety, it can be used (via configurable dashboards) to guide decisions about operational, maintenance, and procurement issues.

No telematics software can do that. And no telematics software can be used to audit or inspect not just vehicles but also facilities, jobsites, and any other asset you need to check.

So, yes, telematics software has its place—keeping tabs on assets—but it’s no replacement for audit/inspection software that can manage all aspects of a comprehensive program designed to improve safety and ensure compliance. Telematics software is a valuable tool, but it’s not an inspection management tool.

Takeaway

If you’ve invested in (or thinking about) telematics software for your fleet, don’t presume that it’s a sufficient replacement for software designed to manage audit and inspection processes. You need both.

Topics: safety management, inspection software, equipment maintenance, vehicle safety, audit software

Using Software for Audits and Inspections: It's Not Rocket Science

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 @ 08:00 AM

mathematics-1235606_1920.jpg

Companies that aren’t using software for audits and inspections often cite the following concerns when justifying why they’re still using paper forms: 

  • Software will be difficult and time-consuming to set up 
  • Software will be challenging for personnel to learn how to use 
  • Software will be met with resistance from older personnel who aren’t computer-savvy. 

While we understand that the uncertainty of change can be worrisome, these concerns are not legitimate reasons to put off a move to software, which is the inevitable future of audits and inspections. With The Checker Software, each of these worries is unfounded. 

Easy to Get Started 

The Checker Software is a cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, and it requires no IT expertise to begin using it. There’s no loading and technical configuration of software required. There’s no complex integration with existing internal systems. You simply create an account on the web, log in, and begin using the software’s many features—on any device connected to the internet (PC, tablet, or phone). 

Easy to Use 

Put simply, if you can press buttons, you can use The Checker Software. Its user interfaces, dashboards, and communication and reporting tools are so intuitive that they’re self-explanatory. The software guides users to such a degree that there’s virtually no learning curve. If you can fill out a simple application online, you can use The Checker Software with no problem.  

The Checker Software is not a confusing, intricate, difficult-to-master software tool like an ERP system, in which audit and inspection functionality is buried amid many other functions. Our software’s sole purpose to make it easier and more-efficient to conduct audits and inspections. 

Easy for Non-Techies to Like 

Older workers are often stereotyped as being reluctant (or even unable) to use computer technology. But this is largely a myth. Computers are so ingrained in our society now that, as the saying goes, “my grandmother is on Facebook.” The internet, email, and texting have been around for more than 20 years—and all put the most extremely technophobic people (who probably aren’t still in the workforce) have become accustomed to using these tools.  

Even those who were initially reluctant have come to appreciate the advantages of computer technology, and they aren’t going to balk at a software tool that will make it easier for them to conduct audits and inspections. 

And think about younger workers whom you’re hiring and promoting. Even if they’re not “technical” people, per se, they’re likely to regard paper audits and inspections as antiquated and inefficient. When choosing between working for a company that uses software and one that uses paper, they’re probably going to consider the one that uses software as more desirable and modern (all else being equal). 

Takeaway 

You can gain the many benefits of software in your audit and inspections processes with The Checker Software—without the challenges of implementing and using a complex tool that requires technical aptitude. 

Topics: inspection software, risk assessments