By Jena Williams

I know I’ll hear agonized groaning when I say this but here goes – A company’s decision to invest in routine maintenance often falls into the same category as their injury prevention program. What category is that? I’ll call it the back burner category. It’s on the radar, but a low priority. Often, it is considered a cost with no real added benefit.

You might argue that you keep your tractors in great shape and I’ll agree with you there. But after speaking with many, many injured workers, I’m coming to realize that maintenance of trailers, dock plates, lift gates, pallet jacks and other essentials of the job are getting a back burner with many companies.

I’m not here to judge or blame. I know companies operate under a very low profit margin, and that resources are limited. I do get that, but I also see the devastation caused when people are injured by a piece of equipment that hasn’t been maintained. Rolling doors on trailers barely close and have to be forced, dock plates that don’t operate properly risking fingers, forcing pallet jacks injure backs.

If you’ve never been injured, it’s hard to imagine what it is like, but it ends up costing the worker for years to come in pain and suffering and reduced lifetime wages. It costs the employer in not meeting deadlines for delivery, in workers’ compensation, in retraining and/or light duty and especially in reputation. Preventing the injury in the first place will impact your bottom line positively.

Often, equipment isn’t maintained because it seems more like community property than personal property. Trailers are interchangeable. They seem to belong to everyone and are the responsibility of no one. If your driver is using it, then make it your business to know what shape it’s in. Ask drivers to report damaged equipment.

Injury prevention is worth the investment. Routine maintenance of non-tractor equipment is also worth the investment. The old adage “a stitch in time saves nine,” a sewing reference to repairing clothing while the tear is small before it becomes a major job, still applies. Develop a reporting and tag out policy for equipment. Make sure it is being used and not ignored. Have penalties for workers who put equipment back into service before it’s been fixed. (And yes, it happens all the time.)

I imagine this post will evoke some strong responses. Positive or negative, I’d like to hear your comments.

Who can tell me what’s wrong in the photo above? (There is a prize for the first person with the right answer.)