Why performing pre-starts is necessary


Every organisation uses tools in the course of their business operations, and it can be hard to ensure that every item of equipment is always fit for purpose. Without knowing that equipment is in good condition workers run the risk of serious injury every time they use it.

The more complex the machine, the greater the risk of injury. To ensure that all equipment is safe to use each item should be properly inspected prior to use.

A pre-start inspection is a quick review to ensure that a task or item of equipment is safe to use.

In order to ensure that the task or equipment is used safely, certain things should be included in a pre-start inspection, such as:

  • Reviewing Safe Work Procedures or other instructions
  • Ensuring that workers understand the task to be performed
  • Inspecting equipment for mechanical faults or damage
  • And reviewing existing safety controls (e.g. protective equipment or guards)

All of these constitute the framework for assessing the task or equipment – or the Pre-start

  • Plant and machinery operators have the highest rate of fatality of any occupation in Australia.
  •  A machinery operator is 5 times more likely to be killed than a manager and 82 times more likely than clerical or administrative staff.
  • 56% of incidents can be linked directly to equipment failures. If pre-start checks are not performed the chances are likely that the risks will not be identified and managed.    

As routine work can cause complacency and a tendency to cut corners, without the ability to properly assess and track pre-starts in real-time, safety managers will never have the full picture.

For example, a worker may think that if they checked the equipment yesterday and it was fine, then it must be in good condition today. However, there may have been a small defect, such as a slow leak, that wasn’t noticed and could develop into a major fault.

Or, in the absence of warning lights a worker may assume that everything is fine, however there may be hidden faults that a visual inspection would reveal.

Operating a machine without performing a pre-start is like playing Russian roulette. Sooner or later something will go wrong.

So, it’s not enough to simply service an item of equipment on a regular basis
The problems that can arise may happen within a very short period of time. Equipment warning indicators are not perfect. They can only tell if certain aspects of the equipment are not working as they should. Together, warning indicators and pre-start inspections provide a more complete picture of the safety and usability of an item of equipment.

So, to be successful, a safety management system needs to be established to effectively setup and monitor pre-start safety inspections for tasks and equipment. And never assume equipment is safe until you have completed the checklist.

Remember, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.

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