Pre-Start Health & Safety Review: When is a PSR required?

Wednesday October 19, 2011
Written by Franco Tomei
Note to readers: This article focuses on item 2 of the table in section 7 of the regulations titled Pre-Start Health and Safety Review that deals with machinery. The guidelines from the Ministry of Labour are available at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/gl_psr.pdf.

Section 7 of the regulations titled Pre-Start Health and Safety Review (PSR), in its current form, has been around for more than a decade, yet it still causes confusion. The most perplexing question still seems to be the determination of when the regulated PSR is triggered. More fundamentally, the question is if and when section 7 applies and, if so, whether a regulated PSR is required.

The term "regulated PSR" is used to mean a PSR as required under section 7, and not other generic uses such as pre-shift inspections or pre-startup review inspections. While the scope of the regulated PSR could be expanded to include a variety of other issues, the regulated PSR is within the strict provisions and circumstances as per column 2 and 3 in the table in section 7.

For the answer to the query, we should go straight to the legislative source and look at the relevant section of the regulations, which reads as follows:

7(2) Subject to subsections 5, 7, 8 and 9, a Pre-Start Health and Safety Review is required if, in a factory other than a logging operation, a provision of this regulation listed in the table applies and the circumstances described in the table will exist:

(a) because a new apparatus, structure or protective element is to be constructed, added or installed, or a new process is to be used; or

(b) because an existing apparatus, structure, protective element or process is to be modified and one of the following steps must be taken to obtain compliance with the applicable provision:

1. New or modified engineering controls are used.

2. Other new or modified measures are used.

3. A combination of new, existing or modified engineering controls and other new or modified measures are used. 

What does this mean? We see, first of all, that a PSR is not always required, as indicated by the phrase "subject to subsections 5, 7, 8 and 9..." whereby exemption from a PSR is possible if specific defined requirements are met. The exemption is exempting the employer from having to obtain a professional report; it is not an exemption from health and safety requirements. In the case of machinery, preparing for the exemption at the planning stage will ensure worker protection at minimal costs, since it will avoid costly retrofits. While economics is always a factor, people doing negotiations during the purchase of machinery must be equally aware of the operational and the regulatory requirements, and ensure that the requirements are met.

What is sometimes not well understood is that the responsibility for the safety requirements of a machine in Ontario (and much of North America) is the responsibility of the employer. It is not illegal for a manufacturer/supplier to sell a non-compliant machine, but it is illegal for an employer to have a worker use a non-compliant machine.

Referencing section 7(2), we see that there are three primary requirements for triggering a PSR:

1. You must be a factory;

2. • "A provision of the regulations listed in the table applies." If we look at the table in section 7, we note that there are approximately 20 provisions of the regulations listed. For item 2, we see six provisions listed (24, 25, 26, 28, 31 and 32). This means that for the purpose of section 7, those six provisions need to be addressed. If none of those provisions apply, then section 7 does not apply and a PSR is not required. There may, however, be other health and safety issues to deal with among the other 119 sections of the regulations.

• "The circumstances described in the table may exist." If we look at the circumstances, they are described as "a protective element that signals the apparatus to stop." We see that there must be a signal. It can be concluded that if there is no signal related to the protective element, then the circumstances do not apply, section 7 does not apply and a PSR is not required. For example, we could have a protective element (in the form of a fixed guard) that does not signal the machinery to stop. This does not mean that the protective element in the form of a fixed guard is not important and that a piece of duct tape is fine. The protective element must still fulfill the requirements of current applicable standards.

3. Subject to the preceding basic requirements, there are also specific conditions under which a PSR is required:

a) There must be new or modified engineering controls;

b) There could be other new or modified measures used;

c) A combination of new, existing or modified engineering controls and other new or modified measures.

The measures or engineering controls referred to here would be those that affect the health and/or safety of the worker.

What the preceding does not address is whether a PSR is required in the course of performing maintenance/repairs or if the machine is moved. The following are my definitions of these terms:

• "Maintenance" is the activity necessary to keep the machine or part performing within the original specific performance parameters;

• "Repair" is the act of restoring the machine or part to the original specific performance requirements.

• "Moving" is the physical movement of the machine from location A to location B.

Based on these definitions, it can be reasonably stated that since maintaining or repairing a system to its original performance specifications is neither new nor modified as required by section 7(2), that section 7 would not apply and a regulated PSR would not be triggered.

In the case of moving, the requirements are a little less clear. In order to address moving concerns with some reasonable clarity, it is prudent to understand the intent of section 7 as per the Ministry of Labour on page 2 of the guidelines:

The intent of section 7 of the regulation for industrial establishments is to ensure that a timely professional review identifies specific hazards, or hazards associated with exposure to chemicals and other designated substances, in certain circumstances. Section 7 is intended to ensure that such hazards are removed or controlled before the apparatus or process is started up. The [PSR] ends when the apparatus or process is put into production. The [PSR] is intended to ensure worker protection as required under the applicable provisions of the regulation for industrial establishments.

It is to be noted that section 7 is for specific hazards under specific circumstances and, by implication, not all hazards under all circumstances. As a result, the performance of a PSR should not lead to the conclusion that there are no health and safety issues.

Let us consider the case of moving machinery. If we move the machine from point A to point B and the safety measures taken to protect the health and safety of the worker are not altered/modified nor are they adversely affected by the environment, then we can state that the worker was equally protected at point B as he or she was at point A. We can now state that we have met the intent of section 7 of the regulations to protect the worker, and the requirements of sections 7 would not apply.

If moving the machinery results in some necessary modifications to the measures or engineering controls taken to protect the worker, or the environment within which the machine is to operate has an adverse effect on the performance of the measures or engineering controls, and those measures or engineering controls must be modified in order to provide regulatory protection to the worker, section 7 applies and a PSR is triggered. To be clear, we must understand that the PSR is triggered, not because of the move, but because of the required modifications to the measures or engineering controls as a result of or coincidental with the move.

Here is another example: If you have an existing machine with a specific safety control system, and in the course of the move some operational changes are made that on assessment require that the measures or engineering controls be modified because the worker is no longer protected in accordance with the provisions and circumstances listed in the table in section 7, then section 7 applies and a PSR may be triggered.

To complicate things, however, the term "move" is not defined. The question comes up as to whether or not the preceding argument applies to a move of one mm, a move across the immediate workplace or a move to a different address.

If we focus on the intent, the fact that the machine is moved one mm or across the province is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the worker was, is and continues to be protected as required by the regulatory requirements of section 7.

If, however, the machine is moved as a result of a sale of the machine to a different employer, then as far as the new employer is concerned, the assessment process must start on the basis that it is a new or newly installed machine for the new employer.

The reader should be aware that the preceding comments do not imply any legal or official interpretation. Please always seek appropriate advice from the Ministry of Labour on any issue.

 

Franco Tomei, B.A.Sc. P.Eng, is a professional engineer with more than 40 years of industrial experience - 12 years of that directly in the safety field. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

This column originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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