Singapore

Strict maintenance regimes prevent major lapses

Like in rail transportation, enforcing maintenance regimes plays a critical role in sectors such as aviation, public bus service, and chemical engineering.

While staff may cut corners, having experienced quality audit teams, a maintenance structure and a strong safety culture can spot problems before they result in widespread failure, experts in those fields told The Straits Times yesterday.

On Tuesday, SMRT revealed that staff in charge of the pump system of a storm water pit had signed off on maintenance work that was not done.

This led to the flooding of the train tunnel at Bishan station last month, rendering services on a stretch of the North-South Line inoperable for 20 hours over two days.

It is suspected that the falsification of the quarterly records went as far back as December last year.

SMRT said on Tuesday that it will engage external experts to carry out a system-wide inspection and form a 50-strong inspection team that reports independently to its Board of Audit and Risk Committee.

Asked about the latest revelations, an engineer from the public bus sector, who declined to be named, said a quality audit team conducting random spot checks would keep staff on their toes.

In the chemical and process engineering field, a highly structured method of managing maintenance is employed.

This is by using an international asset management standard to classify all plant equipment - such as pumps, motors, valves and compressors - into a risk matrix in terms of failure frequency and consequence, said Mr Norman Lee, chairman of the Chemical And Process Engineering Technical Committee with The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES).

Different maintenance efforts are applied, based on where each piece of equipment falls in the matrix.

In aviation, a strict regime of regular preventive maintenance is followed by internal and external audits, said Mr Abbas Ismail, course manager for the diploma in aviation management and services programme at Temasek Polytechnic.

While audits are "bound to turn up" minor procedural lapses caused by factors such as fatigue or carelessness, he said they are important to ensure that major lapses do not happen.

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