In February 2020, the coronial inquest findings into the tragedy on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids Ride (TRRR) were released to the public. Around that time, the Asset Management Council published a short precis of the report, which, if you’re interested, can be found here. The coroner’s findings highlights the crucial role maintenance plays in asset management and the overall landscape of a business.
In this post, we’ll pull out some learnings on the importance of maintenance, based on the findings in the report (in no particular order).
- Communication: For businesses with large engineering assets, communication plays a critical role to ensuring the safety of employees, the smooth operation and longevity of the asset itself, and increases value to the business over time. The first casualty of a lack of communication typically lies with the maintenance of the organisation’s assets. When departments operate in silos, risks and hazards to assets will not be adequately identified to management, and as such leadership remains ‘unaware and therefore unable to take any action1' into maintaining and upgrading the asset.
- Safety Audits/Risk assessments: Good maintenance practices are underpinned by regular safety audits and risk assessments, contained in an overarching asset management plan. This includes asset inspections, risk mitigation strategies, fault and breakdown documentation, root cause analysis, and other formal assessments. Risk registers must be current and reviewed regularly by employees who are ‘suitably qualified, so as to ensure the asset’s safe operation…and any risks and hazards present2' and importantly, be ‘able to effectively assess the…maintenance…and safety programs in place3'. It is crucial that all assessments are measured against applicable safety standards. Anything less than the most rigorous risk and safety assessments will result in the asset failing, leaking costs to the business, and, in some cases, causing injury or loss of life to staff.
- Leadership and Culture: The culture of an organisation structures the actions of the business. Culture dictates the rules, values, behavioural patterns, and myths. When the culture of a business tacitly approves wilful ignorance of maintenance procedures, scant and ad-hoc record keeping, unsafe operating systems, and unsophisticated reporting processes, the result can be catastrophic.
- Asset Knowledge: Large engineering assets are often complex and, in some cases, have numerous components necessary for operation. Each employee assigned to operating assets must be cognisant of the asset’s intended function and its operational capabilities, its design, maintenance and modification history. This becomes increasingly critical as the asset ages, particularly in regard to maintenance procedures performed. Lastly, it is the responsibility of the business to provide adequate training to all staff who operate assets.
- Repairs and Replacements: Repairs to assets must be documented. Breakdown policies should stipulate how many faults can occur before the asset is decommissioned. Mechanical and engineering integrity must remain a priority throughout all maintenance procedures and repairs, and when the asset is ageing, replacement components ought to be certified by the original manufacturer, if possible.
- Data: Data includes any type of record keeping surrounding the functioning, operating and maintenance of an asset, and, in few cases, may still be hand-written. In whatever form, records such as logbooks, work orders, and modification history ought to be easily accessible and centrally located in order for asset operators to examine both from an operational and engineering perspective. Likewise, all maintenance procedures performed on the asset and its components ought to be documented and kept in the same location, able to be perused by any staff member. Poor record keeping equates to poor maintenance practices and will result in disaster for the business. As noted in the coroner’s report, ‘shoddy record keeping was a significant contributor to the incident4' at Dreamworld.
If your role lies in the maintenance and reliability field of asset management, you’ll undoubtedly already be aware of the crucial role maintenance plays. Proficient maintenance practices ensure assets remain in good working condition, thereby extending their life, and enabling greater value for the organisation. As the Dreamworld tragedy shows, a tragic incident can all too easily occur by the failure of just one component of any asset. Failures to assets will almost always come down to poor maintenance and wilful ignorance of required maintenance, safety and risk assessments.
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- Sourced: https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/641830/10545784-final-dreamworld-draft-6-for-upload.pdf 1003 p. 260
- Sourced: https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/641830/10545784-final-dreamworld-draft-6-for-upload.pdf 1005 p.260
- Sourced: https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/641830/10545784-final-dreamworld-draft-6-for-upload.pdf 1053 p.271
- Sourced: https://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/641830/10545784-final-dreamworld-draft-6-for-upload.pdf 1010 p.262