From September 15 to October 26, Ministry of Labour inspectors will target workplaces for material handling hazards and infractions. Expect the ministry to release details in early September. In the meantime, WSPS warehouse/material handling specialist Chuck Leon offers a head start on questions inspectors may ask.
"A number of elements contribute to material handling safety," says Leon. "Asking yourself questions about each of these elements will help you see your workplace through an inspector's eyes, but more to the point will identify ways to manage them more safely and productively.
Leon offers sample questions for each of these elements:
workplace layout and design
manual handling procedures
Internal responsibility system - a common element in every ministry inspection blitz.
Workplace layout and design
WSPS consultants see a lot of rack damage from poor layout and design, such as using sit-down counterbalance lift trucks in aisles that aren't wide enough. Other design concerns include pedestrians walking through areas where lifting equipment is operating. Could you rework the layout to provide pedestrians with a safer route? The best way to approach these and other hazards is by conducting hazard assessments and using the results to build an action plan.
How often are you inspecting your storage systems? What steps are you taking when damage occurs? Are you documenting all of this? Do you know what the load capacity is for your storage systems? You need to know before you load them up. If you don't have this information on hand, ask the manufacturer.
With devices such as lift trucks, power walkies and cranes
have you trained everybody who uses them and evaluated whether they can actually control the equipment?
are you conducting preventive maintenance often enough? If the manufacturer's specifications say every 300 hours, then do it at least that often.
are you inspecting lifting mechanisms according to the Industrial Establishments Regulation (O. Reg. 851, section 51 1(b)(ii))?
How often is your dock inspected? Are door pads in place? When trucks are backed in, are they secured to prevent inadvertent movement? Do you have a live load/unload policy? The intent is to determine whether you have sufficient procedures in place to keep loading dock workers safe.
Manual handling procedures
Inspectors will want to know if your people have been trained in proper lifting techniques. But from a management perspective, have you conducted a hazard assessment? Are your people lifting stuff they don't need to? Are there safer ways to lift things, such as mechanically rather than manually?
Internal Responsibility System (IRS)
Is your joint health and safety committee (JHSC) meeting at least as often as required? Is the JHSC up to date with certification training for designated worker and management members? Is the JHSC conducting inspections? Are its records up to date?
Inspectors may also ask workers and supervisors about their heath and safety responsibilities, and hazards encountered in their work. Will they be able to answer questions correctly? You can be sure compliance with Ontario's new worker and supervisor awareness training requirements will be top of mind for inspectors. Have you complied?
"The key to me in all of this is supervision," says Chuck Leon. "Are you providing supervisors with the training and resources to do their job effectively? Are supervisors enforcing rules and regulations? Are they making sure employees are working within set standards and following policies and procedures?"
How WSPS can help
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services is a material handling full-services solutions provider. We offer:
consulting services (e.g., audits, hazard assessments)
training (customized, on-site, public, self-paced and e-learning)
information and resources (e.g., webinars, guidelines, assessment forms)
in these and many other areas: