So what are pre-start checklist?

Prestart BooksYou probably do a pre-start checklist for some activities but don’t realise it! Or maybe you are guided through a pre-start checklist and again did not recognise it. What about when you fly somewhere? You get into your seat and when all the passengers are onboard the flight crew begin telling you about the flight, what you can do and what you cannot do, making sure your seat belt is fastened, making sure your tray table is in the upright position and that your window blind is up, making sure you know where the emergency exits are and when oxygen will be provided. This is just a small part the flight crews pre-start checklist, they have many more things to check, especially the pilots!

So why do they do this? This is for your safety and comfort during the flight. The pilots are also making sure that the airplane is ready to take to the skies.

Just as in other industries pre-start checklists are used for a variety of tasks as they have many benefits.

The most important benefit is the safety and well being of the operator of machinery and anyone that might be affected by a failure of that machinery. By machinery we are not only talking about machines that help us do our jobs but also the likes of public transport, personal road vehicles and trucking services for example. Without pre-start checklist in some industries it is highly likely we would see many more incidents and accidents. A pre-start checklist should include items that are critical to safety and well being, to provide a degree of confidence that a failure of a part or process will not occur.

Pre-start checklists aid in identifying problems before they actually happen. Performed on a regular basis it would be very easy to capture the deterioration of a part or process over time so that it can be fixed ahead of time. Regular maintenance inspections are usually carried and the pre-start checklist is a proactive method to identify any issues between the regular maintenance inspections. This may also lead to a change in the frequency of the of regular maintenance inspections if failures are occurring.

In some industries a machine or process failure can be a very costly exercise, not only because something will need to be repaired or replaced but also due to the downtime that occurs when that machine cannot produce, maybe it will cause a whole plant to shut down, depriving people of electricity or water for instance. Machinery or process failures in any industry can have major implications and knock on effects that will take time to rectify and re-implement. Pre-start checklists can have a positive impact on downtime reduction, less injuries and definitely less cost.

Remember, our machines and processes are what keeps us and our business moving forward and making us, or our company money. If a machine or process fails then we are not making any money, hopefully we have not harmed anyone due to the failure but it is definitely going to cost us more money to put it right. Conducting a pre-start check on your machinery is a must, doing it correctly without complacency can not only prevent downtime it may also prevent someone being harmed. Overlooking any part of a pre-start checklist could mean missing an obvious problem. You and your colleagues should be trained correctly on the use of pre-start checklist, if nothing else, to be sure you or your colleagues will not be harmed if there is a failure. This is more important when more than one person operates the same piece of machinery, say in a factory with multiple shifts.

Safe Work Australia provides guidance for both the employer and the employee with regard to a healthy and safe workplace.

The employer must:

  • Provide a safe work environment
  • Provide and maintain safe machinery and structures
  • Provide safe ways of working
  • Ensure safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances
  • Provide and maintain adequate facilities
  • Provide any information, training, instruction or supervision needed for safety
  • Monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace

The employee must:

  • Take care of their own health and safety
  • Take care not to do anything that could hurt others
  • Follow work, health and safety instructions
  • Follow the workplace’s WHS policies and procedures
  • Developing pre-start checklists is a combined effort of the employer and the employee to ensure the above points can be met.

The next time you get into your own vehicle or begin your shift at work think about the pre-start checklist that you already have in your mind before you start, you might not have a written checklist but you will realise that you perform them in your mind anyway. When at work though, any safety critical tasks that you perform or any that can have a serious impact on others really needs to be part of your companies written pre-start checklists.

Lets take a look at an example pre-start checklist for a forklift to give you some idea of what is required. Every checklist that is made should be kept so that over time trends in performance of the machine can be tracked. Firstly you need to track are the hours the machine has been operating and the date of the check.
Secondly a walk around the forklift making a visual inspection, looking for anything that does not look right, dripping water or oil, tyres and wheel nuts or any other mechanical condition that has the potential to fail. You would hope though that if the forklift is shared that the last person to use the forklift would already have reported any issues.

Prior to start up all of the fluid levels need to be checked, engine oil, hydraulic levels, cooling water levels and fuel. Each need to be at working levels, if any are low then maybe a leak has occurred somewhere. Any alarms on the forklift that can be checked before startup should be done now, others shall be checked after startup. After starting the forklift don’t just drive away for the first lift, let’s check it functions correctly. Not only for lifting buts also for driving. Once you are happy with the mechanical integrity, the fluids and the functioning only then can you sign the checklist and submit the form to your supervisor.

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