Brad Parsons

Four Ways to Put People in Harm’s Way

Each week I’m fortunate to spend time with customers and prospects to understand their asset management challenges. Each week many of the same challenges arise, the need to reduce maintenance costs, reduce downtime risk and reduce asset inspections. However there is one challenge that I would like to take a moment to highlight, in the hope that this small piece of awareness can make a difference.

Maintaining machines is a constant challenge. Current maintenance practices require regular inspections, which means putting people into environments where humans simply don’t belong and exposing them to unnecessary risks. Today I’d like to walk through some of these scenarios, I believe education and simply engineered solutions are crucial to improving the situation.

Working at Heights

Last week a customer had a unique challenge that we haven’t seen before. His equipment needed to be regularly inspected, he said he had hundreds of machines, mainly gearboxes and motors. His machines runs constantly and needs to be regularly maintained. The cost of an outage could be in the order of $250,000 per day. Clearly failure is not an option for cost and safety reasons. However, these machines are different, they are 250 metres in the air, (straight up). I’m talking about tower cranes. In Sydney alone, there are 344 construction cranes operating. However each of these machines requires a human to put their life at risk to conduct periodic maintenance inspections. According to Safe Work Australia “falls from height is the second largest cause of fatalities in industry (behind vehicle collision)”. Technology available today that enables distance to be put between man and machine, rather than man and the ground, so why is this practice still happening?

Confined Spaces

Claustrophobia is the fear of tight spaces, and personally, if I can avoid them, I will. A confined space can vary from a sewer pipe to cabling trench. Confined spaces are dangerous as they can limit physical access but also they can involved spaces where contaminants such as gas or chemicals can restrict the ability to breath. According to a Confined Space study by Western Australia’s Edith Cowen University, “oxygen deficiency” was the largest contributor to fatalities in these situations. In non-atmospheric incidents, “grain related incidents” accounted for nearly half of all fatalities. The biggest finding from the study was “Workers and supervisors routinely failed to recognise the hazardous conditions that existed or could develop in these workspaces.”. This statement brings some perspective, “in an oxygen deficient atmosphere more than four minutes changes rescue into body recovery”. Training and supervision are singled out as the biggest opportunity to address this challenge. Sending people into places like this, needs to be done in a very controlled way to minimise risk to those involved.

Mechanical Hazards

Some machinery can be placed into areas where mechanical hazards are present. Machines by their very nature create physical movement; this translates in a variety of different ways, from conveyor belts, to mobile work platforms, to gantry cranes. When human bodies come in contact with mechanical movement, we know who comes off worst. These risks can be mitigated using a variety of controls such a distance, physical guards or even time. WorkSafe Queensland produced “Guide to machinery and equipment safety”3 which outlines a range of controls that can be used to mitigate mechanical hazards. Identification of hazards and putting steps in place to mitigate them is the key to reducing risk.

Hazardous Areas

Some environments are so toxic that humans can neither breathe or expose skin for any length of time. The appropriate use of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is an absolute necessity for human survival. In these environments protection is essential for separation between man the environment.

These situations each require careful consideration, sometimes distance, appropriate training and supervision, identification of hazards, or sufficient protection are needed, in order to reduce the risks. While safety is improving (as the graph below shows), the reality is that we still have (in Australia alone) hundreds of fatalities each year. We have the tools and technology have available today, there is no excuse for putting people in unsafe environments.


Risk resulting in number of fatalities graph

I hope that by sharing this story, we can lift awareness, in the hope that we can continue to improve, one fatality, is still too much. Everyone has the right to a safe work environment.

If you know people that are put in these situations on a daily basis then please share this article with them.

Alternatively if you are a business owner, manager or supervisor and have people in your care that are regularly put at risk, then please contact the team at MOVUS.

Brad Parsons is CEO and Founder of MOVUS, who are building the FitMachine – ‘A Fitbit for Industrial Machines’. Find more information at




–FitMachine is a trademark of MOVUS — Fitbit is a trademark of

This article was first published on LinkedIn on 7 August 2018.