Ontario Ministry of Labour conducting machine guarding and electrical hazards blitz

Blitz running from Jan. 15 to Feb. 28

Ontario Ministry of Labour conducting machine guarding and electrical hazards blitz

The Ontario Ministry of Labour will be conducting a machine guarding and electrical hazards blitz from Jan. 15 until Feb. 28.

Managing machine guarding and electrical hazards can be tricky and keeping up with related legislation can be daunting. Navigating through the chaos of a busy work environment poses many challenges, creating a chronic problem for some workplaces.

"Sometimes people can't see the forest for the trees," said Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) machine safety specialist Michael Wilson in a media release. "A Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector may issue guarding orders so the company builds a guard, slaps it on, does the necessary paperwork, and thinks it's over and done with. In a subsequent visit, an inspector looks over the guard and says, 'That's not good enough.'"

The problem is the guard was likely not built in accordance with a recognized standard.

Recent statistics put machine guarding and electrical violations at a whopping 17 per cent, or 2,737 of all MOL orders. These figures, combined with the severity of injuries, explain the MOL’s continued focus on these issues. Improper guarding or lockout can result in amputation, electrocution or even worse, death.

During the blitz, inspectors will check to see if equipment hazards are guarded and lockout/tagout is being carried out properly. Inspectors will also check that: Supervisors and workers have completed mandatory awareness training; measures are in place to prevent contact with overhead power lines; processes are in place to prevent musculoskeletal disorders; the workplace’s internal responsibility system (IRS) is functioning as required; and policies and programs are n place to protect workers from hazards.

Wilson has six tips for employers as they prepare for the MOL 2018 machine guarding and electrical hazards inspection blitz. First, review related requirements in Regulation 851 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act: Pre Start Health and Safety Reviews (Section 7), machine guarding (Sections 24-44) and maintenance/lockout (Sections 74-76).

Next, he recommends conducting a hazard assessment. Pay particular attention to older equipment. In many cases, people have been aware of hazards, but over the years, nothing has happened or guarding may have been removed. Often employees have worked with the same equipment for years and just assume it's safe. It's important to get experts to do an assessment, like a third party with a fresh eye.

Thirdly, understand your guarding options. You're rarely limited to just one solution, especially when it comes to safeguarding. It’s a matter of properly assessing the situation and determining what is the most appropriate solution.

Wilson adds it's key to familiarize yourself with CSA standard Z432-16, Safeguarding of Machinery and CSA standard Z460-13, Control of Hazardous Energy. Both provide detail to support steps you can take to get into compliance.

Also, ensure supervisors are aware of what workers are actually doing. If supervisors are too busy with paperwork to spend time on the floor, how do they know workers are following the rules? How would they know if shortcuts are being taken?

Lastly, use the blitz to motivate change. Alert all workplace parties to the upcoming blitz so that they can identify opportunities to improve safety. If outstanding issues are identified and addressed, then life can be good. If they're overlooked, then someone could get hurt.

"Sometimes people are very good about seeking out that information, while others may not know it exists," said Wilson. "Proper safeguarding and lockout comes down to awareness and training for all workplace parties."