Managing machine guarding and electrical hazards can be tricky, and keeping up with related legislation can be daunting. Navigating through the chaos of a busy work environment poses many challenges, creating a chronic problem for some workplaces.
"Sometimes people can't see the forest for the trees," says WSPS Machine Safety Specialist Michael Wilson. "A Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector may issue guarding orders so the company builds a guard, slaps it on, does the necessary paperwork, and thinks it's over and done with. In a subsequent visit, an inspector looks over the guard and says, 'That's not good enough.'"
The problem is the guard was likely not built in accordance with a recognized standard.
"Sometimes people are very good about seeking out that information, while others may not know it exists," says Michael. "Proper safeguarding and lockout comes down to awareness and training for all workplace parties."
About the blitz
Recent statistics put machine guarding and electrical violations at a whopping 17% or 2,737 of all MOL orders. These figures, combined with the severity of injuries, explain the MOL’s continued focus on these issues. Improper guarding or lockout can result in amputation, electrocution or even worse, death.
During the blitz, inspectors will check to see if equipment hazards are guarded, and lockout/tagout is being carried out properly. Inspectors will also check that:
- supervisors and workers have completed mandatory awareness training
- measures are in place to prevent contact with overhead power lines
- processes are in place to prevent MSDs
- the workplace’s internal responsibility system (IRS) is functioning as required
- policies and programs are n place to protect workers from hazards.
Preparing for the blitz
Michael has six tips for employers as they prepare for the MOL 2018 machine guarding and electrical hazards inspection blitz, which runs January 15 - February 28:
- Review related requirements in Regulation 851 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act: Pre Start Health and Safety Reviews (Section 7), machine guarding (Sections 24-44), and maintenance/lockout (Sections 74-76). "Ask yourself simple questions," says Michael. "Do you currently meet or exceed the legal requirements? Do you believe you are in compliance? If not, then you need to do some work."
- Conduct a hazard assessment. Pay particular attention to older equipment. In many cases, people have been aware of hazards, but over the years, nothing's happened or guarding may have been removed. Often employees have worked with the same equipment for years and just assume it's safe. It's important to get experts to do an assessment. Get a third party, like WSPS, to do a walk-through with a fresh eye.
- Understand your guarding options. You're rarely limited to just one solution, especially when it comes to safeguarding. It’s a matter of properly assessing the situation and determining what is the most appropriate solution.
- Familiarize yourself with CSA standard Z432-16, Safeguarding of Machinery and CSA standard Z460-13, Control of Hazardous Energy. Both provide detail to support steps you can take to get into compliance (Z460-13 is free to view at http://www.csagroup.org).
- Ensure supervisors are aware of what workers are actually doing. If supervisors are too busy with paperwork to spend time on the floor, how do they know workers are following the rules? How would they know if shortcuts are being taken?
- Use the blitz to motivate change. Alert all workplace parties to the upcoming blitz so that they can identify opportunities to improve safety. If outstanding issues are identified and addressed, then life can be good. If they're overlooked, then someone could get hurt.
How we can help
Prevent machine guarding and electrical safety incidents with these WSPS resources:
- Watch a series of six brief machine safeguarding videos featuring Michael Wilson.
- WSPS machine safety consultants can help you identify machine hazards, develop a machine guarding and lockout/tagout program, and deliver awareness training.
- We also offer training on: lockout-tagout, machine safety, robot safety.