The word “maintenance” may produce a mental image of giant refineries or production plants with moving parts and process equipment, but the workplace doesn’t have to be that complex to require a maintenance crew. Maintenance work is important even for companies that work mainly out of offices, as there are building utilities, HVAC systems, custodial work, plumbing and general wear and tear to consider. The maintenance team will work more efficiently when their work is designed to be proactive, consistent and clearly defined.
Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, are documents used in business and industry to give a consistent set of information and directions to employees doing a particular job. SOPs are used to describe everything from accounting practices to chemical production. They’re particularly helpful for maintenance crews because they ensure the right work is done no matter which teammate performs the job. A good SOP will include:
- An overview of the safety hazards associated with the job.
- A description of what’s needed to prepare for the job.
- Directions for performing the job that are clear, concise and can be understood by a trained employee even if he's never performed this particular job before.
- Guidelines to follow after completing the work, including how to return to normal operation and what details need to be reported or recorded in files.
- A list of potential issues or problems that could occur and the normal troubleshooting steps and solutions to apply.
Obviously, the length and detail in an SOP will correlate to the complexity of the job at hand. The SOP for fixing a toilet is likely to be a simple page in length, whereas the SOP for cleaning a reactor is likely to contain many pages of hazard descriptions as well as detailed steps.
One of the most important things to consider for maintenance operating procedures is the act of performing preventative maintenance, commonly abbreviated as PM, to avoid emergencies by being proactive.
For example, the SOP for an HVAC system might include changing a filter every three months, checking for leaks on a monthly basis and confirming electrical connections once a year. Planned maintenance work is always more agreeable than unplanned emergency work, and early detection of problems can help avoid costly repairs and replacements. It’s best practice for SOPs to include PM on equipment even in office environments.
Standard operating procedures for general workplace maintenance should include routine checks of utility lines, HVAC and other central building systems, plumbing maintenance, infrastructure checks (for damage, leaks or faulty wiring) and any other specifics that relate to the building in question.
Often, maintenance crews are also responsible for the installation of new desks, lighting, pictures or wall hangings, flooring replacements and restroom upgrades.
One of the key functions in an office workspace often associated with maintenance is custodial services. These services are vital for keeping an office clean and safe for all individuals. Their SOPs can include vacuuming, cleaning of restrooms and kitchenettes, trash collection and disposal, snow removal, yard or garden upkeep and maintaining proper inventory of trash bags, paper cups and other consumables.
They’re likely to have an SOP for rounds that includes a checklist for daily, weekly and monthly tasks. The custodial staff often works with maintenance, as they’re usually the first to spot issues that need repair work, and they often work together to clean up any mess made by maintenance jobs.
Maintenance and upkeep probably aren't the first thing on an office worker’s mind, as this work often continues in the background, making sure workplaces stay functional, clean and safe. Keeping up with preventative maintenance, following the standard procedures and responding quickly to upsets and emergencies helps to keep offices running smoothly and efficiently.