Industry Insurance

Reducing MPE Incidents – A Critical Business Strategy

Reducing MPE incidents

Incidents involving mobile plant and equipment (MPE) can be expensive. In the 2021-2022 financial year, NTI – Australia’s leading specialist insurer – recorded 165 significant MPE incidents costing more than $50,000.

In the current climate, replacement parts and plant can be hard to find and slow to replace. Now more than ever, preventing incidents – and reducing the severity and impact should they occur – is a critical business strategy.

Some incidents can’t be prevented, but some can – and they typically fall into one of two categories: human error and maintenance related. Together these two causes account for 70 per cent of incidents.


Based on NTI’s 2021-2022 data, human error accounts for around half of significant MPE incidents. The three leading causes were ‘hit visible machinery/object,’ ‘inappropriate position’ (around 20% each) and ‘loss of traction’ (around 15%).

“Some of these are just momentary lapses of concentration,” says NTI’s MPE Risk Engineer, Hayden Reed. “Some are a lack of training or communication between people working together on a job site.

“More often than not, they come from working around the same equipment day in, day out. You don’t become blind to the risks, but you do become used to them.”


Using the same NTI data set, in 2021-2022 insufficient maintenance accounted for around 20 per cent of incidents. The leading causes were accumulation of debris, electrical faults (around 36 per cent each) and hydraulic faults (around 18 per cent).

“These are basically claims where we’ll get an engineer to look at what’s happened to cause an incident,” Hayden says.

The most common outcomes of maintenance-related incidents were fire (around 98 per cent) and significant non-structural damage (around 2 per cent).

NTI suggests five steps for businesses looking to reduce the number of preventable incidents: training, safety and operations protocols, maintenance, regular cleaning and investing in new technology:

1. Training: “Most businesses are pretty good at assessing their operators’ competency,” Hayden says. “But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be providing training where it’s needed, or looking at certificates of competency.”

It comes down to risk management. Training provided by a legitimate third party gives a fresh look at risks and operational procedures, and that’s sometimes all that’s needed to avoid a problem.

2. Operations: Good businesses will establish, communicate and enforce safe work and operational practices. Every site should have protocols to log attendance, equipment use, safety and operational procedures, and more.

“It’s up to businesses to decide how frequently to do it,” Hayden says. “You might have a static site with a lot of workers. You could opt to say, ‘we’ll do it six-monthly or yearly.’

“That’s up to the business, but it’s always good to keep messages fresh and to let the team know you’ve got their safety in mind.”

3. Maintenance: Routine maintenance and servicing are a given for most businesses. The point is to go beyond the minimum and establish a preventive maintenance routine based on your operations and equipment.

“People might say, ‘oh, it’s just a burst hose,’ and replace it,” Hayden says. “Or if electrical cables are rubbing and causing shorts, they might get an electrician in.

“But when it’s a battery cable that’s unfused it won’t trip fuses or breakers. It’ll just spark till it causes a fire.”

Having checks in place for these components and communicating their importance is critical.

4. Cleaning: Keeping your MPE clean makes you look more professional and gives your team members more pride in their jobs. It also makes it easier to identify faults and avoid incidents – like fires.

This is especially the case for equipment directly exposed to organic materials, such as forestry and agricultural machines; but even for relatively ‘clean’ plant such as cherry pickers and forklifts, cleanliness is a must.

“Have a cleaning regime in place that reflects the nature of the work and the risk,” says Hayden, “consideration should be given towards weather patterns and the machine’s duty cycle.”

5. New technology: Investing in new technology can pay dividends beyond operational improvements. Most (but not all) new plant is safer and easier to operate than older versions, which can immediately impact your business’s risk profile and the likelihood of incidents.


“A lot of newer equipment comes with safety and efficiency improvements,” Hayden says. “You can often geo-fence or input parameters to avoid problems. Automation can pay huge dividends.”

One area often overlooked is businesses investing in technology solutions but not training personnel on use. This is a critical step to ensure you’re maximising your return on investment.

Keeping your equipment clean, well maintained, and operated by skilled users with clear protocols can help minimise your claims.

If you’d like to learn more about risk management and how to protect your business, contact your insurance broker, or NTI, today.

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