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PSRs Part 1: insights and advice from industry experts

Electric engineer

Confused about when and how to conduct a Pre-Start Health and Safety Review (PSR) of new or modified equipment? You’re in good company. WSPS’ first ever PSR Summit, held last month, attracted a capacity crowd seeking expert advice and insights on these and other questions.

PSRs are legally mandated safety examinations of new or modified apparatus, structures or protective elements, which must be conducted by a professional engineer. The goal is to ensure the safety of workers before the apparatus, structures or protective elements goes into use - ideally in the design stage. Employers are responsible for acting on any compliance recommendations made by the engineer and keeping workers safe after the equipment or process goes into use.

The PSR Summit’s keynote speaker, Frank O’Rourke Vice President, Safety, Health, Environment and Sustainability for Weston Foods, was quick to acknowledge that many workplaces grapple with PSRs. The legal requirement to conduct a PSR has been in place since 1997, “but we’re still talking about it today,” noted O’Rourke.

Nevertheless, he’s a keen advocate of PSRs. Although they are required only in Ontario, Weston Foods has adopted the PSR process across North America. “PSRs are a commitment to making sure that when you put a new piece of equipment in, or you modify a piece of equipment, you do it properly. It’s about doing the right thing for your people.”

A cost-effective and proactive way to prevent illness or injury, PSRs also offer additional benefits, such as less retrofitting, downtime and replacement of equipment, and greater compliance with legal requirements.

Where the process breaks down

Speakers at the PSR Summit recognized that workplaces don’t always get the PSR process right. They identified common challenges, including

  • finding the right engineer. “I work with structural engineers weekly,” said WSPS Warehouse and Racking Specialist Chuck Leon. “There are good ones and not so good ones. You’re responsible for bringing on board the right people to do the right job for you, and hopefully at the right cost.”
  • ensuring the workplace acts on the engineer’s recommendations. Some workplaces mistakenly believe receiving the engineer’s report concludes the PSR process, but instead it’s the point at which the employer assumes responsibility for implementing the engineer’s recommendations. Miles Purvis, President of ProSafe Inc., says in the past it wasn’t uncommon for clients to put ProSafe’s PSR reports “on a shelf or file it away forever.” Chuck Leon recounted asking a client if he could look at a PSR and being handed a sealed envelope. The client had never opened it, let alone read the engineer’s recommendations. 
  • maintaining the safety of new or changed equipment or processes after they go into operation. “What keeps me awake at night,” said Frank O’Rourke, “is not new equipment, because I think we have a really great PSR process. It’s the older equipment, and the human interaction with it since the PSR took place.” 

Watch for solutions to these challenges and more in “PSRs Part 2: best practices from an expert panel,” to be published in an upcoming issue of WSPS eNews.

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