Having a healthy supply of different lubrication solutions on site to keep your equipment operating smoothly and efficiently is essential. However, it is vital that your lubricant stocks are well-maintained. When lubricants like oils and greases are stored or handled incorrectly, it can lead to many unfortunate consequences. Spills and leaks can lead to stock loss, health and safety issues and the wrong lubrication product being used, which consequently causes damage to equipment.
To this end, we have compiled some useful tips for sites storing and handling lubricants. Read through our list to see which of these practices you adhere to and discover some new methods you might not have considered yet.
Storage rules – indoors and outside
Lubricants kept indoors must always be stored in a location that is dry and clean. A moderate temperature must be maintained in the lubrication store and products kept away from any industrial contamination like humidity and dust. Ideally, all lubricants should be stored in a horizontal position on built-for-purpose storage racks so that containers can be rotated and only used on a first-in and first-out basis.
Indoor lubricant storage is always advised but is not always possible due to space and financial constraints. When lubricants must be kept outdoors, lubricant consumption must be tracked carefully. Lubricants stored outdoors must be sheltered from adverse weather. If containers must be stored upright, ensure covers are used.
Dealing with opened containers
After a lubricant container’s seal is broken and it is in use, correct care must always be taken to maintain control of any contamination ingress. Containers should remain capped when they are not used.
Eliminating confusion with correct labelling
Lubricant identification practices are important. Two of the most common consequences of poor lubricant management are lubricant confusion and cross contamination. As a result, all lubricant containers must remain clearly labelled to make sure that correct product identification is possible for employees. Always avoid using labelling methods that may wear off over time or are difficult to read. Take additional care in the labelling of any lubrication containers that will be stored in an outdoor area as snow, rain and even sun damage may impact the label and render it illegible. Colour coding the labels that you use can simplify the process greatly, reducing the potential risks of any misapplication occurring. However, if you select a colour coding system on-site, make sure that alpha or numeric labelling is additionally present to account for any employees suffering from colour blindness.
Dispensing Equipment issues
Lubricant dispensing equipment is often at the root of problems related to cross contamination. When you dispense oil from equipment that has been previously used with another lubricant, the two different fluids will mix, and potentially cause the lubricant to become impaired. Cross contamination is known as a trend-killer that can reduce the effectiveness of your oil analysis efforts. As a result, the range of equipment used such as hand pumps, transport containers, filter carts and transfer carts should all be labelled up to match the lubricant that they are used with. In cases where mixing may be unavoidable, always verify compatibility far in advance with your lubricant supplier.
You should extend this identification process to lubricant fill ports of your machinery. Using colour codes or identification tags to make sure that the correct lubricant is always added to the oil reservoir fitted with the appropriate dispensing tools. Should dispensing equipment be used for a wide variety of lubricants, you must employ an effective flushing or cleaning procedure that emphasises the removal of the lubricant previously in use and other contamination to minimise such risks.
Clean lubrication delivery
Regardless of how much care is taken when storing lubricants, they will be subject to potential contamination when filling up systems. Consequently, it is essential that the lubricant is filtered using a proper filter element before it enters your equipment.
Ensure that correct transfer equipment is used for the specific lubricant that is being dispensed. You might be directly topping up a system or filling a portable container, but either way, ensure the lubricant is filtered first.
It is advised that oil is cycled through a filter element with high efficiency that matches your equipment specifications. If your storage approach exposes the lubricant to a moist environment, a two-stage filtering technique with a water absorbent filter element is recommended.
During transfer of lubricants to a portable container, avoid using galvanized containers as the additives in the lubricant could react with the vessel’s zinc plating and form metal soaps that can clog up small openings in industrial equipment. Finally, avoid using dirty or open containers for lubricant transfer purposes.
By keeping your supply of lubricants secure and well-organised and by monitoring it regularly while using the safest practices when handling, you can improve your site’s efficiency and bottom line, while complying with health and safety standards.