Machine Safety 101: Industry experts discuss how to create a safer workplace

It's no secret that authorities are cracking down on workplace safety violations. In Ontario, alone, the total number of convictions and the amount of fines issued continues to climb each year - jumping from 326 convictions and more than $6 million in fines in 2005-2006 to 1,303 convictions and more than $14 million in fines in 2008-2009. With prosecutions quadrupling over the last four years, it is clear that some manufacturers still don't fully understand what their responsibilities are when it comes to machine safety.

It is this alarming trend that prompted Manufacturing AUTOMATION, a sister magazine of Canadian Occupational Safety, to invite eight industry experts to our office in Aurora, Ont., in September for our second annual machine safety roundtable, sponsored by Festo Inc.

The participants offered expertise in areas ranging from legal issues, standards development and workplace investigations, to product development and system integration. The result was a lively two-hour discussion that touched on everything from standards to responsibility to productivity. No matter where the conversation took us, there was one clear underlying theme: Education. According to our experts, education is their biggest challenge related to machine safety; education as it relates to standards; education as it relates to responsibilities; and education as it relates to safety, in general.

The more knowledgeable employers are about machine safety, and the more they act on this knowledge, the greater chance we have of lowering the number of convictions and decreasing the amount of fines, resulting in safer workplaces. The points discussed during the roundtable are aimed at achieving this goal.

Following were the participants at the machine safety roundtable: Lisa Bolton, a labour and employment lawyer with expertise in workplace safety, with Sherrard Kuzz LLP; Wayne De L'Orme, provincial co-ordinator with the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Health and Safety Program; Dan Fournier, national sales manager, Safety, with Omron Canada Inc., a manufacturer of machine safety technologies; Dave Lawson, vice-president and general manager of Advanced Motion & Controls Ltd., a distributor of factory automation products, including safety solutions; Jeff Mathyssen, regional manager with Electro-Mag (Ontario) Ltd., a distributor of automation, sensors and machine safety products; Doug Nix, managing director with Compliance InSight Consulting, Inc., a firm specializing in risk assessment and safety controls for machinery; Elizabeth Rankin, project manager with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA); and Rick Sauer, product manager with Festo Inc., a supplier of automation technology.

Watch the highlights of the discussion

This story and video originally appeared in Manufacturing Automation ( To read more highlights from the machine safety roundtable go to Manufacturing Automation's website.