Fall machine guarding blitz: Seven tips to help you manage hazards

Sunday October 05, 2014
Written by Scott Williams
Oct. 5, 2014 - From November 3 to December 14, the Ministry of Labour's Health and Safety Blitz initiative will focus on machine safety in the workplace.

"Inspectors will probably apply a straightforward approach to machine safety," says Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) machine safety specialist Michael Wilson. "Are there guards in place? Are they, in fact, restricting access to hazardous motion? Are they being properly maintained?"

To get ahead of the blitz, Wilson offers these seven suggestions.

1. If you’re a plant manager, figure out whether the operation has safeguarding issues. "Inspectors who find guarding violations could write orders with a short compliance deadline or, if the danger is imminent, shut down a piece of equipment or machinery until the problem is resolved. So, being proactive is in your best interests. My recommendation is to conduct a proper hazard identification and risk assessment. This allows you to prioritize hazards, and prepare and execute a plan."

2. Give yourself time. "Safeguarding a machine is not about putting a piece of duct tape on it. Guards may need to be designed and will require time for fabrication. With certain safeguards, you may have to conduct a pre-start health and safety review. This may require additional resources. Does management have to buy-in first? Do you have the necessary authority? All this takes time."

3. If you’re a supervisor and think there may be guarding issues, get them on the record so that you can seek management's support to control them.

4. Understand guarding options. Stay on top of guarding developments and solutions. Take courses. Visit machine guarding exhibitors at trade shows and speak with manufacturers and experts. "With safeguarding, you're never limited to just one solution. It's just a matter of properly assessing the situation and determining what is the most appropriate solution for your workplace."

5. Ensure supervisors are familiar with what workers are actually doing. If supervisors are too busy with paperwork to spend time on the floor, rethink how work is done. "If they don't understand the job, they would have a hard time understanding what hazards workers are exposed to. How do they know workers are following the rules? How do they know if workers are bypassing safeguards or using the right PPE?"

6. Use the blitz to motivate change. Alert all workplace parties to the upcoming blitz so that they can identify opportunities to improve safety. "Workers, supervisors, plant managers and the employer all have to understand they play an active role in safety. If outstanding issues are identified and addressed, then life can be good. If they're overlooked, then someone could get hurt."

7. Avoid complacency. "It's a nasty animal. Sometimes safety messages get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day work, but there are many ways to garner interest: toolbox talks, joint walk-arounds, paycheque messages, signs, contests, one-on-one coaching…"

"I like to think of blitzes as a spot-check," says Wilson, "so if an inspector did happen to show up to my workplace, it's a good snapshot in time to see how I'm doing and get a good understanding of 'Am I where I need to be, or is there more work I need to do?'"

How WSPS can help
1. Check out the WSPS’s safeguarding and lockout resource page. You’ll find a list of applicable legislation, consulting, public training, self-paced training, pre-recorded webinars, and downloads.

2. View these videos, featuring Michael Wilson:
o Machine Safety Tips Part 1 - Navigating the Pre-Start Health and Safety Review Process
o Machine Safety Tips Part 2 - An outline of what your lockout program should include
o Machine Safety Tips Part 3 – Factors to keep in mind when assessing safeguarding

3. Attend these WSPS Partners in Prevention sessions:
o 'But It Came That Way!' Learn What You Need to Know About Machine Guarding - Ottawa, October 21, Thornhill, November 13.
o Managing Risk in Guarding, Chemical Exposure and Ergonomics - Kitchener, October 28.
o Machine Safeguarding: Are You Ready for the MOL Blitz - Thunder Bay, November 5.


Scott Williams is the editor of Network News, Workplace Safety and Prevention Service's monthly newsletter.


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