Managing Risks of Operations and Maintenance Manuals


Understanding the importance of managing risks of Operations and Maintenance Manuals

A recent conversation with a Senior Project Manager for a major new project highlighted the lack of understanding about the importance of managing risks of Operations and Maintenance Manuals when handing over a new project.

Myths about Operations and Maintenance Manuals

“O&M Manuals aren’t critical to handover”. This comment is usually followed by “The last job took over 12 months to get the O&M’s completed, why the rush?” or “they’re not needed until the end of the Warranty or Defects Liability Period”. These myths are usually the result of past practice, where the Contractors are not pushed by the Owner or more importantly the Owners Project Manager.

In NSW it is a condition to have proper building manuals in place before the issue of an occupancy certificate In other states, regulations require that the owners are given information that meets 3 basic criteria, in short, adequate descriptions, evidence of compliance, and instructions on safe and proper use. This applies to contractors and designers.

The issue is about perception, people like designers, contractors and owners reps in the ‘Project silo’ think the objectives are to be ahead of time and under budget. Yet the ‘Project’ has only one real objective to be ready to ‘do the business’ for which it was created. A new office block is leased and paying rent, a school is teaching students, a retail facility is selling goods. How many of us would be happy to drive off in the new car without training on how it works, its new features and access to the owner’s manual in the glove box?It’s a myth to think that not managing risks of Operations and Maintenance Manuals at or before the handover is not a risk to the real project objective.

Misconceptions about Operations and Maintenance Manuals

“We only provide Operations and Maintenance Manuals in accord with the specifications”. Or the comment “if the contract does not state a requirement for a schedule of equipment, we are not doing it”. Often the specification is either lacking an understanding of the actual requirements or is inconsistent between design disciplines or it’s just a ‘cut and paste’ from the last job.

However, the real misconception is that the specification for Operations and Maintenance Manuals is of primary relevance. In countries like Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and elsewhere the requirements for Operations and Maintenance Manuals are set down in Laws and Regulations. As any good lawyer will advise, a legal requirement takes precedence over any contract or specification. And most good contracts include a clause “thou shall comply with all applicable laws”. So it’s a misconception to assume that compliance with the specification will absolve the risk of not providing compliant O&M’s.