Restarting ‘idle’ machinery – Beyond COVID-19

By  Vero Insurance

When Government restrictions are eased following the pandemic outbreak and businesses can re-open, it may not be as easy as returning to site and turning the machinery, gas, electricity and water services back on. The extent of recovery is dependent upon the extent the business went to in the closure. Vero produced an RM Insight article entitled Shutting down machinery - The business fight against COVID-19 which provided risk control strategies and in turn provided for a clearer means of business resumption when available. In general terms, this article included: consultation with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), removal of process materials, cover and protect against corrosion, separation of dissimilar metals, drain fuels, add rust inhibitors and desiccant packages (moisture absorption), provide periodic inspections/ testing and most importantly the provision of a ‘plant deactivation’ register.

In general, it’s important to reverse these actions that were taken to close the premises, along with other safeguards. To now prepare for and undertake the business recovery (once declared possible by the Government), here are some tips to consider in order to restart idle machinery.

Review the ‘plant deactivation’ list prior to commencing restart

The extent of recovery is obviously dependant upon the extent the business went to in shutting down the machinery. The ‘deactivation list’ clearly marked equipment to indicate to operators involved with the future plant restart of what has been done to preserve the equipment (not documenting what has been done to equipment during the shutdown process can lead to situations being overlooked and ultimately damage equipment).

Consult OEM manuals for prestart and restart procedures

The original equipment manufacturers (OEM) describe best practice procedures to be followed.

Replace process materials

Within process vessels, tanks, pumps and pipework.

Remove protective covers

Remove covers from building air condition/ ventilation vent openings that prevented entry by insects, rodents, birds and other animals.

Remove all protective coatings

These may have been applied to the surfaces of the machinery to prevent corrosion (e.g. protective waxes, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coatings, plastic bags and films, powders etc.) and in turn remove all dust covers (e.g. heat-shrinkable plastic film over machines or components).


Consult OEM manuals for start-up procedures and remove desiccant packages.

Check condition of lubricants within engines, compressors, gearboxes, bearings etc.

Conduct oil sample analysis for large expensive equipment that has been idle for extended periods (>6 months). Replace or replenish as necessary.

Refrigeration plant

  • clean air conditioning system condenser coils
  • water chiller system condenser heat exchangers should be inspected prior to restart after extended outage (check for tube corrosion and condition of cathodic protection)
  • ensure all refrigeration compressor crankcase heaters are turned on for a preset period (refer to OEM manual) prior to restart.

Electrical enclosures

Remove equipment enclosures (e.g. plastic wraps) and desiccant packages.

Electrical plant

Reinstate carbon brushes and remove desiccant packages. Remove all ‘lock-outs/ tag-outs’.

Before starting machinery, including refrigeration systems, refer to the Vero Information guide: How to conduct plant and machinery safety risk assessments; and self-inspection checklist: Inspection and maintenance of refrigeration systems.

Once the business is back up and running, review the business continuity plan. What worked well and what didn’t? Revise the plan based on lessons learned. Refer to Vero’s RM Insight article: Organisational resilience and the self-inspection checklist Business continuity planning for small businesses.

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This information contained in this Document is general in nature only and does not consider your specific risks and hazards, nor does it imply insurance coverage. It is not intended to be a substitute for appropriate professional advice. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the completeness or accuracy of this Document and you should consider whether it adequately covers all your hazards, risks or necessary considerations. AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Vero Insurance (“Vero”) and its related bodies corporate do not accept any legal responsibility or liability for negligence or otherwise to you or anyone else who seeks to use or rely on this Document. This includes, without limitation, loss arising from a possible failure of the Document to incorporate any applicable Australian Standards or identify any regulator, your statutory requirements, or other risks or hazards beyond those mentioned in the Document. V10916 12/05/20 A