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Blitz Results: Safe Operation of Machinery

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: May 27, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: May 2016

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Workers can be exposed to a number of hazards when machines are not properly guarded or locked out during maintenance, repair and other activities in industrial sector workplaces. These hazards can result in serious injuries such as amputation of limbs or death.

From January 18, 2016 to February 26, 2016, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz on the operation of machinery at industrial workplaces in Ontario.

The inspectors checked for hazards involving machine operations and other issues that could result in worker injuries and deaths. They checked that employers were taking appropriate action to assess and address these hazards, as required by the:

The blitz’s goals were to:

  • raise awareness of hazards involving machine operation and other issues
  • increase workplace compliance with safe operation of machinery
  • prevent worker injuries and illness

This blitz was part of the government’s continued commitment to preventing workplace injuries and illness through its Safe At Work Ontario enforcement initiative.

Background

In 2013, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board received a number of claims from workers who missed time at work due to injuries. These included:

  • 1,641 workers who were caught in or compressed by equipment
  • 246 workers who were rubbed or scraped by friction, pressure or jarred by vibration

Also, in 2013, the Ministry of Labour issued 16,088 orders to employers for violations of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments. Of those orders, about

  • 15.5 per cent involved machine guarding, and
  • 1.5 per cent involved lockout violations.

Report summary

From January 18, 2016 to February 26, 2016, ministry inspectors conducted 1,315 proactive field visits to 1,023 workplaces and issued a total of 4,853 orders[1] under the OHSA and its regulations. This included 125 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times.

The three most frequently issued orders involved employers’ failure to ensure:

  • equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer were maintained in good condition
  • a lifting device was examined by a competent person and safely operated within the load capacity
  • an in-running nip hazard or any part of a machine, device or thing that could endanger the safety of any worker was equipped with, and guarded by, a guard or other device that prevents access to the pinch point

Full report

Workplace inspection blitzes

Inspection blitzes are part of the province's Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces to be visited by inspectors are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry's website.

The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and are intended to promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Blitz focus

During the blitz, Ministry of Labour inspectors focused on workplaces in the following sectors:

  • wood and metal fabrication
  • manufacturing, chemical and plastics
  • automotive
  • sawmills
  • food, beverage and tobacco
  • pulp and paper
  • textiles
  • printing

In particular, the blitz targeted workplaces:

  • known to have machinery
  • known to have hazardous processes and equipment
  • where complaints have been received
  • where there was a poor compliance history

The inspectors focused on:

  • Guarding[2]: Inspectors checked that employers had ensured that pinch points and other hazardous locations on equipment had guarding devices.
  • Locking and blocking[3]: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring workers were following lockout procedures to prevent machines from starting when the machines were opened or when guarding devices were removed.
  • Electrical hazards[4]: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring the power supply to electrical installations, equipment or conductors was disconnected, locked out of service and tagged before or during any work was done, on or near live exposed parts of installations, equipment or conductors.
  • Powerline contact: Inspectors checked that employers were taking every reasonable precaution to protect workers who were at risk of coming in contact with an overhead power line while performing maintenance work on a roof or a roof repair.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs): Inspectors checked that employers had taken adequate measures to address activities that could lead to MSDs. This included addressing an increase in awkward postures and/or increased use of force to perform required duties due to the installation or removal of a machine guard.
  • Internal Responsibility System (IRS): Inspectors checked and evaluated workplaces’ IRS to see if a health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee, if required, was in place and that they were functioning as required under the OHSA. They also checked that employers were carrying out workplace inspections and other requirements.
  • Policies and programs[5]: Inspectors checked that employers had policies and programs in place to protect workers from hazards in the workplace.

Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Inspection activity

From January 18, 2016 to February 26, 2016, ministry inspectors conducted 1,315 proactive field visits to 1,023 workplaces and issued 4,853 orders under the OHSA and its regulations.

On average, 4.74 orders were issued per workplace. Some of the workplaces were visited several times, with an average of 3.69 orders issued per field visit.

Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors.

Table 1: Top workplace sectors visited
Sector Orders Issued Stop Work Orders Issued Requirements Workplaces Visited
Wood and Metal Fabrication 1,509 34 40 274
Retail 318 7 1 103
Wholesalers 428 13 7 83
Industrial Services 253 13 2 67
Food, Beverage and Tobacco 299 5 1 65
Chemical, Rubber and Plastics 236 5 10 50
Vehicle Sales and Service 268 1 3 50
Automotive 160 10 0 46
Textiles, Printing 176 3 1 35
Restaurants 181 0 0 30

Order analysis

Table 2: Most frequently issued orders under OHSA and Industrial Regulations
Reason for Order Number of Orders Percentage Total Orders Issued
Failure to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer were maintained in good condition [OHSA s. 25(1)(b)] 366 7.5%
Failure to ensure that a lifting device was examined by a competent person and safely operated within the load capacity. [Industrial Reg. s. 51] 365 7.5%
Failure to ensure an in-running nip hazard or any part of a machine, device or thing that could endanger workers’ safety was equipped with, and guarded by, a guard or other device that prevented access to the pinch point [Industrial Reg. s. 25] 350 7.2%
Failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [OHSA s. 25(2)(h)] 245 5.0%
Failure to ensure a machine, prime mover or transmission equipment was equipped with, and guarded by, a guard or other device to prevent access to a moving part if that moving part could endanger workers’ safety [Industrial Reg. s. 24] 240 4.9%
Failure to post, in the workplace, a copy of the OHSA and any explanatory material prepared by the Ministry of Labour, both in English and the workplace’s majority language, outlining workers’ rights, responsibilities and duties [OHSA s. 25(2)(i)] 217 4.5%
Failure to ensure a floor or other surface used by workers was kept free of, obstructions, hazards, and accumulations of refuse, snow or ice [Industrial Reg. s. 11] 148 3.0%
Failure to prepare and review, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy [OHSA s. 25(2)(j)] 142 2.9%
Failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health or safety [OHSA s. 25(2)(a)] 111 2.3%
Failure to ensure material articles or things:
  • required to be lifted, carried or moved, were done so in a manner, and with such precautions and safeguards (including protective clothing, guards or other precautions) so as to not endanger a worker’s safety
  • were transported, placed or stored so they did not tip, collapse or fall, and could be removed or withdrawn without endangering a worker’s safety and
  • were removed from a storage area, pile or rack in a manner that did not endanger a worker’s safety
[Industrial Reg. s. 45]
108 2.2%

Of the total orders:

  • 12 per cent (580 orders) were issued under Part III.0.1 of the OHSA provisions for workplace violence and harassment. They involved employers’ failure to comply with requirements to:
    • have workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
    • assess or re-assess the risks of workplace violence arising from the workplace’s nature, type of work or conditions of work
    • provide information and instruction to workers on the workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
  • 8.9 per cent (432 orders) were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation for violations involving:
    • basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers (241 orders or 5 per cent of total orders)
    • basic occupational health and safety awareness training for supervisors (190 orders or 4 per cent of total orders)
  • 2.6 per cent (125 orders) were stop work orders issued for hazards, including failure to maintain equipment, materials or protective devices and failure to guard equipment

Observations

On average, 4.74 orders were issued per workplace with an average of 3.69 orders issued per field visit. By comparison, a 2014 machine guarding blitz resulted in an average of 5.43 orders issued per workplace and an average of 4.47 orders per field visit. While the number of orders have dropped slightly, the findings indicate workers continue to be exposed to machine guarding hazards.

Continued enforcement is needed to improve the safety of workers who operate machines with exposed moving parts and in-running nip hazards.

The ministry will continue to target resources on machine guarding safety during routine workplace inspections of Ontario's industrial workplaces. During visits, inspectors should continue to check that employers are ensuring:

  • machines are equipped with, and guarded by, devices that prevent access to moving parts that could endanger a worker’s safety
  • machines are equipped with, and guarded by, devices to prevent access to pinch points
  • equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition and
  • workers and supervisors complete a basic occupational health and safety awareness training
  • program.

Next steps

The ministry will continue to raise awareness of machinery hazards in Ontario workplaces.

One of the primary purposes of the OHSA is to facilitate a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) in the workplace. To this end, the OHSA lays out the duties of employers, supervisors, workers, constructors and workplace owners. Workplace parties’ compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS and control of hazards in the workplace.

Employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control machinery hazards.

Compliance help for employers

For compliance assistance, view Ministry of Labour health and safety awareness products for workplace parties, including:

Please contact Ministry of Labour health and safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards.

[1] Includes all orders and requirements.

[2] Guarding is generally required in locations where there are moving parts, in-running nip hazards or pinch points, such as power transmission interfaces and shear points.

[3] Lockout procedures generally involve bringing a machine to a complete stop and disconnecting all of its power sources. Blocking is an extra step that must be carried out to prevent equipment from moving if there could be residual energy that has not dissipated.

[4] Working on energized electrical equipment is a major safety hazard for electrical workers. Lockout is necessary to ensure a power supply cannot be inadvertently turned on while electrical work is being carried out.

[5] Program elements of a policy could include some of the following: worker training on chemicals, and machine guarding and lockout.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.