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Lessons learned from machine guarding-related prosecutions

Machine guarding

Machine-related incidents injure almost 1,800 Ontario workers every year* and cost employers thousands of dollars in fines. It's a grim reminder that some workplaces could be doing more to keep workers safe, says Robert Vomiero, WSPS Technical Specialist - Machine and Robot Safety.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) launched a six-week machine guarding inspection initiative on February 17 to reduce the risk of machine-related injuries.

In our January issue, WSPS Machine Safety Specialist Michael Wilson offered six inspection-inspired tips to manage machine-related hazards. But what can we learn from machine guarding prosecutions?

We've asked Robert Vomiero to identify possible best practices based on two recent life-altering incidents and one life-ending incident, all preventable. These three incidents led to $260,000 in fines. In all safeguarding applications, Robert stresses the importance of conducting a comprehensive risk assessment to develop a safeguarding strategy that would help achieve necessary risk reduction and legislative compliance.

Example 1: A young worker was operating a die cut machine connected to a conveyor when an object became stuck on the conveyor. The worker reached into the machine to adjust the object and suffered a crushing injury. Fine: $75,000. Robert's advice: properly guard equipment so that material infeed and discharge openings are far enough away from hazards to prevent workers from accessing those hazards. Check the CSA Z432 Safeguarding of Machinery standard for guidance on appropriate guard opening sizes versus distance to hazards inside.

Example 2: A worker was killed after falling into a hopper while the auger was running. A grate on top of the hopper prevented access to the auger when closed, and a sensor stopped the auger's movement when the grate was opened. However, a metal washer had been taped to the grate to render it inoperable, and the sensor's wiring had been altered to falsely indicate that the safety grate was closed. Fine: $130,000. Robert's advice: ensure interlocking devices on guards are safety rated, not easily defeatable, and appropriate for the application. Get a professional engineer to conduct a Pre-Start Health and Safety Review (PSR) to ensure legislative compliance. Establish and enforce strict policies and procedures that prohibit workers from defeating safeguarding devices.

Example 3: A worker was critically injured while trying to extricate an item from a conveyor system featuring a robot that places various components into these items as they move along three conveyors. A worker retrieving the completed items from the end of the line noticed a broken and dislodged item on the centre conveyor. As the worker leaned into the interior of the robot to reach the item, the robot cycled, pinning the worker. Fine: $55,000. Robert's advice: enclose equipment within perimeter guarding and use a safety interlocked door that interrupts the operation of equipment upon opening. Conduct a PSR. Establish a strong lockout/tagout program, and strictly enforce lockout/tagout procedures before maintenance, cleaning, or other tasks that are performed inside safeguarded space.



* Source: Detailed Entity Reports for 2018 as of October 2019.