Equipment maintenance and repair is necessary to avoid downtime and to minimize major repairs. However, maintaining and repairing machines can lead to serious injury. Workers should be trained in shop safety and have the proper equipment to minimize or even eliminate the impact of shop accidents.

Prevention of injuries when repairing machines

1. Develop safe work areas and good habits, and establish good housekeeping practices.

2. Train workers and family members, and encourage safe work habits.

3. Maintain machinery properly and promptly when repairs are needed. This eliminates downtime and worker exposure to hazards of repairing machines.


Read operating and repair manuals and keep them handy. Study manuals to know how to perform the task at hand, and train your workers to study them also.

4. Slow down and take time to think. Visualize what steps need to be taken. Do not rush a job. Accidents happen when workers hurry to get a machine back into production, and do not take the time to be safe.

5. Turn off the machine when working on it. Prevent others from accidentally starting the machine by removing the keys or the battery cable.

Lock the brakes and stabilize the machine as best you can by using blocks in conjunction with the machine’s own safety devices.

Do not use a jack alone to stabilize a raised machine. If the work can’t be done without the proper support, do not work on the machine until you can properly support it.

6. Keep shields and guards in place. Replace them when they are damaged or missing. Remember to put back guards and shields that were removed for repairs.

7. Wear proper clothing and protective gear. Do not wear loose, dangling clothes that can become entangled in moving parts. Wear protection appropriate to the job, such as gloves, eye protection, ear protection, hard hats and steel-toed shoes.

Wear welding masks/goggles, gloves and leather aprons when welding. If working with chemicals, wear the protective equipment specified by the label.

8. Use ladders properly. Firmly place the ladder on the ground with a distance away from the wall no more than 1 foot for every 4 feet of height. Do not use metal ladders near power lines or other areas that may cause electrical shock.

9. Lift objects correctly. An injured back means lost work, pain and disability. Lifting subjects the back to its greatest stress. Train your workers to lift properly.

Keep the back straight while using the legs to lift the object. If heavy objects are to be lifted, provide back supports for workers. Better yet, use mechanical lifting devices.

10. Have a hazard-free shop. A well-lit, clean workbench and work area, along with a regular cleaning schedule of the shop area, will go a long way in eliminating hazards.

If your shop doesn’t have proper wiring, install an up-to-date electrical system in the shop including a grounded 120-volt three-wire outlet system with a ground fault circuit interrupter available for outdoor use or in areas that may be wet.

11. When working on electrically powered equipment, lock out the control box to prevent someone from accidentally turning on the equipment while someone is working on it.

12. Isolate hazardous work areas. Have a proper storage area for paints, pesticides and oily rags. A separate area is needed for welding with a fan to vent gases from welding.

Keep compressed gas welding cylinders in a safe area and secured so that no one can accidentally knock cylinders over and accidentally break off the valves, which could cause an explosion. Keep protective clothing and gear on hand for all operations. Know where it is and how much you have.

13. Be aware of common safety hazards. Look around and spot potential accidents and eliminate the hazards as much as possible. Take the time to look where you are going – not only ahead but behind, to the side and above.

Remove a potential hazard. It is much cheaper to take a few extra minutes and remove a hazard than to pay for the hospital bills or worker’s compensation if a worker is hurt on the job.

—Excerpts from Pacific Northwest Extension Farm Safety Series PNW 512