Preventive Maintenance

Does your workplace culture need a tune-up?

My Dad was a stationary engineer.  He was responsible for developing the Preventive Maintenance programs for one of Toronto’s largest newspapers.  As I grew older, he often preached the values of preventive maintenance to keep my car running well and later my home systems in perfect order.  Better to maintain equipment than have a breakdown when you are on the highway or when the cold weather comes.  

When we think about Bill 168 and Bill 132, legislation enacting our laws around Violence and Harassment in the Workplace, we often think of them as standing alone in isolation from other workplace legislation.  These Bills amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act and are now Section 32 of that legislation.  The program specified within Section 32 should be part of our employee safety program. 

Many workplaces have dangerous equipment and environments which require employers to ensure workers are trained and that the equipment and work sites are maintained to be safe for workers as well as operating efficiently for greater profitability.  Part of the safety program for equipment and other mechanical elements of the workplace is a Preventive Maintenance program.  Health and Safety Ontario defines preventive maintenance this way: 

Preventive maintenance is predetermined work performed to a schedule with the aim of preventing the wear and tear or sudden failure of equipment components. Preventive maintenance helps to:

·      Protect assets and prolong the useful life of production equipment

·      Improve system reliability

·      Decrease cost of replacement

·      Decreases system downtime

·      Reduce injury

One element of our workplace environment is our workplace culture.  A healthy workplace culture provides safety and dignity to our workforce and fosters effective, productive teams.

I have translated the Health and Safety Ontario definition of preventive maintenance to apply it to workplace culture:

Preventive maintenance is predetermined work performed to a schedule with the aim of preventing workplace harassment and bullying and loss of productivity.  Preventive maintenance helps to:

·      Reduce risk of allegations of harassment and bullying

·      Increase productivity, collaboration and innovation

·      Decrease costs of benefits and WSIB costs

·      Reduce staff turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism

preventive maintenance plan

I have put together a generic preventive maintenance plan that you might find useful: 

Predetermined Preventive Maintenance Plan for Workplace Culture

          Company Values

          Polices and Procedures

          Reward and Correct

          Support Managers and Supervisors

          Train and train again

Company Values: Inform, inspire, instruct

“The goal of articulating the essential and enduring principles of your organization is to inform, inspire, and instruct the day-to-day behaviors of everyone who works at your company. “ – Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review


·      a well thought out value statement sets out the expectations of behaviour and provides the basis for the development of a code of conduct and other policies aimed at governing employee behaviour

·      “advertises” your organization’s position on workplace behaviour as well as the treatment of other stakeholders to your staff, customers, competitors and suppliers

·      Should be reviewed as part of your strategic planning exercise to ensure continuing relevancy

·      Developing your value statement gives you an opportunity to think beyond doing to how you do what you do. 

Here is an example of a vision statement that really drives the values to create a healthy workplace culture:

Preventive Maintenance Policies

Many of us find policy writing to be a tedious and sometimes complicated task.  Often managers mistake practices for policies.  Please refer to my blog article Do You Really Need a Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy? for more information. 

·    Ensure your organization has policies in place that are compliant with legislations

·    Make sure policies are reviewed on a regular basis.  Your Workplace Violence and Harassment policy must be reviewed at least annually to be compliant with the OHSA.

·    Are your policies in line with other contractual obligations e.g. Collective Agreements, outsourcing contracts, leases?

·    Make sure your management team is following policies – alternate practices can void policies and collective agreement provisions

·    On May 31, 2018, an Ottawa area coffee shop was convicted and fined $60,000 for failing to have a Workplace Violence and Harassment policy among other related workplace infractions.

Employee Behaviour:
Reward the Good, Address the Bad

The responsibility for developing and maintaining a good workplace culture starts at the top.  When senior leadership displays values which promote dignity and respect in the workplace, those behaviours will trickle down. 

  • Reward employees who exemplify company values through positive evaluations, and as a basis for promotion and salary increases
  • Hold your managers accountable for creating a positive work environment by measuring it and setting targets
  • Conflict assessments and culture audits can be done to get a picture of where you are and provide insights into improving culture and employee behaviour
  • Ensure your reward system does not reward “win at all” behaviour.  For example, rewarding a highly productive employee despite the way they treat coworkers or subordinates.
  • Ensure all Managers and Supervisors have the resources they need
    • Leadership training
    • HR resources
    • Realistic targets
  • Train your managers/supervisors on the Human Rights Code.  Can you name all 13 protected grounds that apply to the workplace?  Most of us can’t.  Here they are:

o   Age

o   Ancestry, colour, race

o   Citizenship

o   Ethnic origin

o   Place of origin

o   Creed

o   Disability

o   Family status

o   Marital status (including single status)

o   Gender identity, gender expression

o   Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)

o   Record of offences (in employment only)

o   Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)

o   Sexual orientation.

Train and Train Again!

As budgets shrink and there are greater and greater pressures on employees’ time, training often suffers.  Training can provide many benefits beyond the actual information given in the course.  Ensure you are providing the training your staff need by building both the cost of courses and trainers into your budget along with budgeting for staff time to attend courses.  

Training can improve business performance, profit and staff morale. Advantages to your business include:

  • you choose what new skills your workforce gains, targeting skills to meet the needs of your operation for now and in the future
  • training your staff can result in better customer service, better work safety practices and productivity improvements
  • you demonstrate to your workforce that you value them enough to invest in them, improving loyalty and staff retention. In turn, retention is a saving to you. 

When I worked in healthcare we had a large number of mandatory training sessions to deliver.  We decided to deliver the training in full day sessions.  It took 3 days to train all staff.  We scheduled staff so that they attended training with workers they were not regularly on shift with.  This allowed them to get to know their co-workers better.  We made “passports” and held each session in a different room.  Employees went to each session and had the trainer sign their passport.  They submitted their passports at the end for entry into a door prize.  Of course, this meant we had signed proof that each employee had received their mandatory training.  We had a number of prizes, the most favoured being a paid day off!  Along with a delicious lunch, staff viewed the day as a reward, rather than forced training.  With little extra cost, we were able to train staff, reward staff and build a more cohesive team.  

Some points to think about as you develop your training programs:

·      Ensure legislative requirements for training are met – don’t forget new hires.

·      Sneak training in non-traditional ways – repeat the important messages to impact changes in culture

·      Use training as a reward not a punishment – so often training is part of performance management.  To be effective, training should be provided more often as routine staff development

·      Ensure the training you provide staff is supported by the practices and policies that exist in your workplace

·      Explore the training needs of your organization and individual employees through surveys, needs analysis and in each employee performance appraisal

·      Develop a culture of learning by providing resources such as on-line training so that motivated staff can access all the available training – and find ways to motivate the less inspired staff

·      Remember that some of your staff may require accommodation to obtain the training you provide.