October-November inspection blitzes: machine hazards • MSDs • violence and harassment…

Sep 06, 2012

October-November inspection blitzes: machine hazards - MSDs - violence and harassment...Throughout October and November, Ministry of Labour inspectors will be checking workplaces in the manufacturing and service sectors for priority hazards such as inadequate machine guarding practices and lockout procedures, and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Inspectors will also be checking on compliance with Bill 168, which introduced new requirements for preventing workplace violence and harassment. These requirements took effect in June 2010. Ministry of Labour spokesperson Rob Wrigley, a program manager for the Industrial Health and Safety Program, explained to HSO Network News that, instead of conducting individual inspection blitzes on each of these issues, inspectors will widen the scope of each workplace visit to take these and other hazards into account. While checking machines for compliance with guarding and lockout requirements, explained Wrigley, inspectors will also be looking for related risk factors. For example,

  • MSD issues associated with these machines, such as
    • awkward or repetitive loading and retrieval of items from machines, conveyors and workstations
    • postures that are awkward or require an excessive range of motion
    • guarding ergonomics. "For example," said Wrigley, "have ergonomic principles been considered in the installation of the guard? Could the installation introduce an MSD?"
  • risk of occupational illness from exposure to chemicals and noise
  • failure to comply with workplace violence and harassment provisions

"The intent," said Wrigley, "is to conduct comprehensive visits, not focus just on blitz priorities at the expense of other hazards that may be present." Wrigley advises that this comprehensive approach won't end once the blitz is over. "Inspectors will be watching out for these hazards on an ongoing basis. These are zero-tolerance issues."

Preparing for the blitzes

HSO Network News asked Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) ergonomist Tanya Muller and consultant Cheryl Shepherd to suggest possible next steps for businesses that may be visited by an inspector. Both recommended conducting an immediate identification and assessment of potential hazards, implementing control measures for high hazards, and ensuring workers and supervisors have the training they need to perform their duties safely.

"Conduct several sweeps through the workplace," suggested Muller. "Go for the low-lying fruit first by starting with hazards that have been known to cause injuries or have been the subject of complaints or concerns. In a second sweep, address observed situations or tasks with potential to pose hazards. In a third sweep, address lower priority tasks posing minimal but recognizable hazards."

Muller and Shepherd also encourage workplaces to take a longer, strategic look at hazard management so that injury and illness prevention become part of the workplace's ongoing operations. "For instance," said Shepherd, "provide all staff with training on their roles and responsibilities so that they see their and their co-workers' health and safety as an integral part of their job. Make sure monthly inspections are more than perfunctory walk-throughs. Train staff conducting the inspections to ask meaningful questions and engage workers on identifying potential problems and solutions. Help workers understand why the health and safety requirements are there, and what the consequences are of disregarding them. Educate supervisors on the real and hidden impact of injuries on productivity. Also, be inclusive when conducting hazard training. Using machine guarding as an example, make sure anyone who may have contact with machines understands safeguarding - maintenance and housekeeping staff, quality assurance people who check product on the line, engineering staff…"

Wrigley wholly endorses taking a strategic approach. "It's important for workplaces to understand that the Occupational Health and Safety Act and requirements are minimum requirements. High functioning organizations perform well above these requirements, and have woven prevention into the fabric of their organization. When it comes to managing health and safety, we would like every organization to have a mindset of continuous improvement."

The table below provides a sampling of short- and longer-term measures to manage blitz-related hazards.

Priority Sectors
for Inspection
Subject of Blitz
In the Short Term
In the Longer Term
  • Automotive
  • Ceramics
  • Chemical, rubber & plastics
  • Food & beverage (including food services)
  • Logging
  • Textiles & printing
  • Wood & metal fabrication
  • Ensure all machine-related hazards are properly safeguarded
  • Review lockout procedures and improve if needed
  • Ensure workers and supervisors have received related hazard awareness training
  • Create an ongoing process for identifying, assessing and controlling hazards
  • Create and communicate policies and procedures to control hazards
  • Develop programs to implement and maintain the policies and procedures
  • Provide appropriate training to workers and supervisors,
  • Encourage workers to report hazards or concerns, and managers to properly respond
  • Make workers aware that bypassing safeguarding devices is unacceptable
  • Evaluate the program to ensure preventive measures are working, and make improvements when required
  • Build this process into your managed systems approach Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
  • Review all tasks and workstations linked to MSD-related incidents
  • Put controls in place to reduce or eliminate exposure to hazards
  • Provide MSD awareness training
Violence and Harassment
  • Review any staff concerns around the definitions of violence and harassment
  • Ensure policies and procedures are in place, and workers have received appropriate training
Occupational Illness from exposure to chemicals and noise
  • Conduct a hazardous materials inventory
  • Ensure controls are in place for exposure to chemical, biological and physical agents (elimination/substitution, engineering controls, work practices, hygiene facilities and practices, personal protective equipment)
  • Ensure workers and supervisors have received related training and information, including WHMIS training

How WSPS can help

Explore ways in which our consultants can assist, such as:

  • conducting hazard assessments
  • identifying and facilitating solutions
  • developing a training plan personalized for your organization
  • integrating health and safety into organizational management practices
  • Joing a local chapter of WSPS's Safety Group which helps each member firm develop specific aspects of a health and safety program according to the firm's needs and requirements.

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