Be Sure to Plan Winter Maintenance

By Mark Krause

Whether your quarry is planning on shutting down completely, partially or planning to continue to operate at full capacity, winter maintenance is important to consider. Winter weather can come unexpectedly, so it’s important to prep your site for the harsh winter conditions.

Mark Krause 2 copyYou should also be basing your operating plans around production needs. Winter can be hard on your people and equipment. Here are three areas to focus on to prepare your equipment and people for the upcoming winter months.

1. Prepare Equipment for Winter Weather

Colder weather conditions can have several effects on your equipment – whether stationary or mobile. The first to consider is your machine starting and stopping. Is your machine equipped with the necessary items to make it easier to start and stop in cold conditions? Will the cold effect your machine’s start or stop? Is your machine prepared to handle snow? Does your equipment require any fluids to be kept warm? These are all things that could affect a machines performance during the winter months.

Equipment that you are planning to shut down for the winter should be completely drained and emptied. Washing equipment that could collect water that could turn into ice should be drained of all liquid. Ice can cause damage to wear parts during future start-up activities. Although some equipment may be shut down for the winter, it is still important to define maintenance checks for these machines so that they are ready to start up again in the spring.

2. Winter Maintenance Activities

The slower production time in winter can be a convenient time to catch up on maintenance. This time can also be used for total rebuilds. Throughout the year most operations complete maintenance tasks to keep equipment up and running. The winter is a good time to take part in preventative maintenance tasks. This way, time is being spent performing maintenance tasks when the machine is not in use, rather than slowing production during operational seasons. Maintenance tasks that take some time to complete can be accomplished during the winter months since production will not be affected by the amount of time a solution takes.

Winter is also a good time to send machines back for a total factory rebuild. Machines that could use an update can be sent back to the manufacture, or their authorized dealer, for proper replacement parts and tuning. Most manufacturers will grease and box the equipment back to the site where it can be stored until spring time.

Other important winter maintenance tasks include:

  • Make sure all electrical components are protected and sealed from the weather.
  • Clean all equipment to remove material buildup, which can store moisture that generates rust.
  • Keep bearings greased to lock out moisture.
  • Cover equipment openings to avoid snow and ice pack.

3. Safety During the Winter

As always safety is number one, but in the winter, being safe has some added difficulties. During the winter months, ice and snow are always a possibility, leaving walkways and areas slippery and unsafe to walk. When walking nearing large equipment, it is important to keep the walkways safe and clear of snow and ice to avoid injury. Keep paths for loaders clear as well; unsafe paths for trucks and other equipment to travel on can lead to disaster.

When clearing snow, ice and frozen blockages from machines, be aware of proper lock out, tag out, try out protocols. Be sure not to damage the machine or its components when dislodging frozen blockages. Machines can sometimes act differently in the winter months with start-up and stopping, that’s why it’s important to review the safety procedures with equipment, especially during the winter months.

Winter can be damaging to your equipment and people if you’re not prepared for it. Prepping your operation and equipment for winter should start months prior to the first expected drop in temperatures. Time should be planned to spend on maintenance tasks to your equipment to have them running in top shape for spring. Snow and ice cause hazardous conditions for your employees as well, take time to review safety procedures around the equipment and the site. Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best when planning winter maintenance.

Mark Krause is managing director – North America, for McLanahan Corp.