Material handling blitz on now: use past results to manage your hazards

Sep 05, 2014

Material handlingStarting September 15, Ministry of Labour inspectors are conducting the third in a series of material handling blitzes. This follows a warehousing blitz six months ago and a racking and storage blitz three years ago. "This tells me that the ministry very clearly understands the province's injury statistics and has found evidence during previous blitzes to warrant more inspections," says WSPS consultant Sandy Ash.

"Last February the ministry issued 3900 orders during 1400 visits, which means if you get a visit, you're likely to get orders. Problems exist in every sector, and most workplaces probably aren't as safe or compliant as they think."

"But regardless of whether or not your workplace is visited, it's a bottom line hit when someone is injured or product is damaged. Taking steps now will lead to a safer and more productive workplace."

Create your own prevention strategy with previous blitz results

Sandy Ash encourages his clients to use blitz results as a tool for strengthening their health and safety program. Here are four suggestions based on the February 2014 warehousing blitz results.

1. Compare your workplace’s health and safety performance against the ministry's inspection priorities. Priority status indicates an opportunity for improvement. During the February blitz, inspectors focused on these hazards:

  • lifting devices,
  • slips, trips and falls,
  • racking and storage systems,
  • loading dock areas,
  • mezzanine floors,
  • musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

"I often encounter organizations that seem to do many things well," says Ash, "but if they don't have programs to manage the hazards, their performance may be a matter of luck, not good management. Do you have a program where everyone understands their roles and responsibilities? A process for evaluating whether you're meeting the mark? If you're bringing in a mezzanine (elevated work platform) or a rack structure, have you followed Pre-Start Health & Safety Review requirements? Are you using a qualified and experienced installer and do you have the appropriate documentation to support the installation? Do all your people now exposed to this structure understand how to maintain it or work around it?"

2. Compare the subject of work orders to your workplace's practices. Most orders appear to be for known hazards, and five are simple Safety 101 stuff: failing to

  • keep things in good order
  • post a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the worker’s health and safety
  • prepare and review at least annually a written health and safety policy, and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy
  • ensure material that may tip and fall and endanger any worker is secured against tipping or falling.

"Workplaces that receive orders for them are not managing the basics of compliance. Is it an awareness issue? Do people not realize they have that obligation? Or is it just a task they didn't get to?" What's the situation in your workplace?

3. Consider the consequences of a stop work order on your workplace. Inspectors issued 134 stop work orders, which effectively shut down machines or processes. "A stop work order indicates that a hazard is posing imminent danger to workers," says Ash. "Something is not being managed. It’s also posing a direct impediment to someone's bottom line."

4. Look at your workplace the way an inspector would. "Workplaces receiving orders aren't seeing their equipment the way an inspector might, whether it's conveyors, loading docks, lifting devices, rack structures, or whatever."

5. Look beyond compliance and decide how to integrate standards or best practices into your operations. "Workplaces handed an order may not see health and safety as a business priority, but it is integral to their business success," says Ash.

How we can help

WSPS resources (e.g., courses, downloads, consulting services) on the following topics can help you improve your workplace’s material handling performance:

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