Maintaining Safety Standards Through Proper Lubrication Management

Proper Lubrication Management

A facility’s commitment to its employees’ safety is often at the top of its priority list, and rightly so. This commitment can be observed in safety guidelines such as wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), tagging dangerous areas, using sirens and alerts in case of emergencies, etc. However, lubrication programs often overlook the danger that comes from performing lubrication tasks.

Designing and implementing your facility’s lubrication program should reflect your commitment to safety. Proper lubrication management means including a lubrication safety program that maintains the safety standards of your facility. This program should have guidelines that focus on managing the dangers of lubricants and lubrication tasks. In this article, you’ll learn about the essential areas to consider when setting up your lubrication safety program. The following sections will discuss the six essential areas of lubrication: general safety, storage, handling, training, workplace monitoring, and disposal. 

1. General Safety

When considering general safety, you work within the confines of your facility’s established safety protocols. Your lubrication program should maintain the safety rules and regulations already in effect and apply them to your lubricating procedures. Here, you determine how your lubrication efforts result in promoting the safety and well-being of the employees within the facility.

Implement the current safety framework at your worksite, including PPE, cleanliness, and anything else the HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) team has established to maintain company-wide safety. For instance, numerous oil sampling or filling stations may be inaccessible. There are likely guidelines for accessing these areas safely, such as fall protection when working at height or how to position a ladder to reach over a pipe run. 

Lubrication is needed to help equipment move, and moving equipment is, by definition, hazardous. Conduct a thorough examination of the dangers in the workplace, including the work area layout, activity hazards such as the specific machinery employed, and environmental hazards such as combustible dust. Create documented procedures for lubrication tasks as you would for other maintenance or HSE-related tasks.

2. Storage

Lubrication management should also consider the storage of lubricants in the lubrication safety program. Safe storage and containment of oil and grease for lubrication are essential to maintaining your facility’s safety standards. Your lubrication safety programs should include guidelines on the proper and improper storage of lubricants.

Leakage, weather exposure, storage in high-traffic areas, precipitation, and bright sunlight are factors that affect lubricants during storage. These factors can lead to disasters or fatal accidents, fire, chemical poisoning through inhalation or ingestion, physical damage through touch, etc. Any effective lubrication program includes reviewing these factors, identifying their presence, and eliminating them. This program should provide steps that manage the risks to the health and safety of personnel resulting from these factors.

Some of the ways lubrication management maintains safety standards during storage include:

  • Keeping lubricants inside and away from high-traffic areas or pipes known to leak or vent, such as steam traps, helps prevent spills and leaks.
  • Preventing fire or contamination by storing tools and tiny lubricants like grease in properly built lockers.
  • Adding ventilation or monitoring the atmosphere and complying with air-quality guidelines.
  • Following all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations regarding the storage of lubricants, including oil breaks, allowed drains, container stacking and placing, and fire suppression or ventilation systems.
  • Work closely with the HSE team to ensure that any modifications to the lubrication program consider these rules. 

3. Handling

Successful lubrication management should also consider the handling of lubricants in developing a lubrication safety program. Safe handling begins with thorough knowledge of the chemical safety and properties of the lubricants. 

You must have a list of handling recommendations from suppliers or manufacturers of your lubricants and other materials. These recommendations, along with additional pertinent safety information, are listed on the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of these materials. The MSDS of every lubricant in use and in storage should always be kept available for reference. 

Furthermore, handling lubricants should also consider the API’s (American Petroleum Institute) lubricant categorization:

Group I – Group I lubricants have been reported with sufficient evidence that they can cause human carcinogenicity. The carcinogenic substance is a Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH), commonly known as an aromatic. If your facility handles Group I lubricants, you must take further precautions to keep uninformed team members away, such as posting large placards and other warnings. 

Group II – Similar to Group I, Group II lubricants have been found as potentially carcinogenic to animals. Although less hazardous than Group I, these lubricants nonetheless require the same precautions and warnings.

Group III & IV – The majority of aromatic chemicals have been removed from Group III and Group IV lubricants. However, some components may still be of concern. 

Group V – Considered to be the least carcinogenic, these lubricants are composed of synthetic esters, polyglycerols, and silicone. Among the chemicals in this category, phosphate esters have the greatest potential to cause harm to humans. Triphenyl-phosphate chemicals are frequently associated with allergic responses.

Your lubrication safety programs should prescribe the necessary PPE, such as gloves, goggles, and face shields. It should also identify practices that reduce spills, leaks, and overuse. One of these practices is using a metered filter cart with quick disconnects for filling or moving oils from storage. You can also use a pressure reducer when sampling oil whose typical gauge pressure is greater than 100 psi (pounds per square inch). 

When handling grease, lubrication management will require specific handling procedures. Grease tends to settle in the tube when stored at cooler temperatures and may require warming before application. You can manually heat grease to above 75℉ but never use a flame to do so. Also, never hold the coupler of a grease gun with your hand during application. Consider using grease guns with installed pressure relief or avoiding pneumatic types for high-risk circumstances.

4. Training

Regular training is essential to maintain current safety standards. This is true for all departments, even for the lubrication maintenance department. Training the whole staff on lubrication safety is critical for an effective lubrication safety program.

Training all your staff on lubrication safety promotes general awareness and cooperation. This type of training can be a part of the HSE team’s annual rotation of refresher training. On the other hand, the core lubrication team, or the people directly involved in the execution of lubrication, will need more extensive lubrication safety training.

The different lubrication training needs of employees are:

  • First-hire employees – must be trained on general safety and job-specific information.
  • Change in position or responsibilities – training on new lubrication or supervisory tasks.
  • Change or modifications in the lubrication process – training on the latest methods of the lubrication process.
  • New or change in lubricant type or brand – training on the properties, correct application or usage, and other information.
  • New or replaced lubrication tool or equipment – training on the specifications, proper use with hands-on training, and other information.
  • New hazard or critical condition – training on identifying and controlling the hazard or condition.

5. Worksite Monitoring 

Successful lubrication management must also consider worksite monitoring when developing a lubrication safety program. Worksite monitoring involves verifying the work area and the equipment after any lubricating operation, such as emptying, changing out, or filling. 

The primary aim of worksite monitoring is to search for spills or leaks. A cap or seal, for example, that was improperly placed can be put back on correctly. Worksite monitoring also lets you check other minor issues that can potentially become hazardous. 

Lubrication safety programs must include monitoring schedules with a checklist of items to monitor. Develop this checklist by observing how the maintenance or operations people who deal with lubrication daily plan and carry out this task. Worksite monitoring enables process improvement and strengthens areas of inadequate safety training and procedures.

6. Disposal

Lastly, lubrication management helps maintain safety standards by considering the disposal of used lubricants. Disposal of used oil starts with proper storage and isolation from clean or unused lubricants. Keeping new and used oil together risks contamination and results in low lubricant performance, which can pose a safety risk to some degree.

The proper and safe disposal of lubricants must follow local regulations and comply with the existing standards. Facilities may employ practices such as using filters to remove metal components, recycling these components, and compressing used oil to extract the clean oil. The discarded oil mixture can then be stored in properly labeled containers waiting to be transported to waste treatment facilities.

Your lubrication safety program must set the proper handling and disposal of used oil to prevent risks to human health and safety. Used oils are fire hazards, cause accidents due to their slippery texture, and can pollute the soil and water systems. 

Lubrication Management Software for Lubrication Safety

‘Safety comes first’ applies to lubrication management. Lubrication safety should be of high priority when planning, executing, and evaluating all lubrication initiatives. But with the many areas to consider, your lubrication program may miss some critical considerations.

A lubrication management software like Redlist is a must-have tool in times like this. Designed to be an all-around tool for lubrication management, Redlist can help you centralize all the aspects of lubrication including lubrication safety parameters.

Want to learn how Redlist can help with your lubrication safety program? Schedule a demo with us today!