"What elements should a lubrication safety program include?"
A lubrication safety program should focus on six main elements: storage, handling, equipment monitoring, disposal, general safety practices and training.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Properly storing and containing oils and greases will go a long way toward making a program safe. Designs that inherently help to prevent spills, leaks or overuse should be strongly considered, such as using a metered filter cart with quick disconnects for transferring or filling oils. Certain lubricants will fume if not properly sealed, so it is essential to have some type of atmospheric tester or ventilation available in case possible exposure is noticed.
While many lubricants are non-toxic, some may contain trace minerals or ingredients that can cause a reaction or injury if mishandled. Read the safety data sheet (SDS) for the lubricant in question and have copies of the SDS readily available for workers who frequently use the area. Keep the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) nearby, such as gloves, goggles, face shields or other safety gear. When sampling, use a pressure reducer if the oil is normally above 100 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). Also, never hold a grease gun coupler with your hand during application and consider using grease guns with an installed pressure relief or avoiding pneumatic types for high-risk situations.
After a lubricant drain, changeout or filling, recheck the equipment. Look for leaks or spills. Dust or debris may have settled on a small spot that wasn’t noticeable during the maintenance action. Monitoring the equipment will help to keep the area safe and avert concerns like slips and trips.
Used lubricant awaiting disposal is just as important to store properly as new oil, if not more so. Maintain used oil in a separate area from new oil and follow local health, safety and environmental (HSE) rules for combining different types of discarded oil or other products such as used filters.
Performing a lubrication maintenance task is very similar to any other practice at your facility. Wear the proper PPE. Keep the area free of clutter and debris. Make certain all signage is clearly posted and legible.
Work with your site’s health and safety team to review these types of actions regularly. Verify that they are taught to newcomers as part of the onboarding process. Ensure other workers who don’t deal with lubrication practices on a daily basis are aware of these activities and precautions as well.
In short, store your lubricants correctly, handle them well, check your jobsites, properly dispose of all lubricants, follow site-specific safety guidelines and train to the standard by which you want your program to perform.