MRO Magazine

MRO & The Law: The Law vs. Machinery Hazards

It has been just over a year since the Ontario Ministry of Labour amended its requirements for Pre-start Health and Safety Reviews (PSHSRs) under Section 7 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishme...


April 1, 2002
By David and Judy van Rhijn

It has been just over a year since the Ontario Ministry of Labour amended its requirements for Pre-start Health and Safety Reviews (PSHSRs) under Section 7 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments. They are intended to remove and control hazards before a new, or modified, apparatus or process is started up.

Even though the amendments narrow the scope of the reviews, fear of liability and misunderstanding of the section have lead to greater costs for industry. In many cases, employers are doing far more work than the section actually requires for compliance.

In Ontario, industry has been familiar with requirements for pre-development reviews on everything from breaking ground on construction to installing machinery since the 1970s. As of Oct. 7, 2000, a PSHSR completed by a professional engineer is only required in eight very hazardous areas. They are listed in the Table to Section 7 of the regulation and are tied back to about a dozen specific regulations.

One might think that this setup would make things much clearer for employers, yet the level of safety required in industrial facilities is so misunderstood in the field that many employers are going overboard in their efforts to comply.

Bob Karn, manager of the industrial controls group at Wm. Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Inc., Kitchener, Ont., a mid- to large-size multi-trade contractor, likes the improvement to safety standards but sees a negative impact on projects.

“I’m quoting jobs that have this requirement,” says Karn. “In one quote, PSHSR requirements come to 15-20 per cent of the total job. That’s a big percentage. If my quote is too high, they may decide to scrap the line rather than fix it.” He has even seen work go out of the country. “Quite honestly, some multi-national companies find it so expensive that, rather than upgrade equipment in Canada, they build a new factory in the States or Mexico.”

With this perception, employers can be tempted to ignore the section all together. Gibson McIlwrath, an inspector in the Ministry of Labour’s Kitchener office, warns against this because of the safety aspect and the spectre of legal liability. “If they don’t do the review and there’s an accident, there’s no due diligence,” he points out. “They have to take reasonable steps to ensure safety and the best precaution is a PSHSR. If an accident occurs five years later, they can produce the documents and say it was looked at when it was installed and it was safe. From a defensive stand-point, in the long run it pays for itself.”

Those mindful of protecting themselves are tending to go to extremes. “Some end-users are extremely defensive and over-cautious, and spend too much money when they don’t have to,” Karn says. “They interpret ‘worst case’ every time.”

Wayne Page was an Ontario labour ministry engineer and is now a consultant machine-guarding specialist with the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA). Page gives seminars and advice to engineers, managers and health and safety committee members on PSHSR requirements. He agrees that people are scared of Section 7, but says they shouldn’t be.

“If people who have to make alterations or modifications to machines can work with the manufacturer or document what they do in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and record who is the qualified person who put it in, it will be exempted.” Qualified persons can be millwrights, electricians or other craftspeople with the necessary registration and experience.

Page refers to guidelines issued by the labour ministry. Flowcharts bring a practical aspect to the guide. “Have a look at the guidelines and flow diagrams very closely. They tell the truth,” Page insists.

McIlwrath agrees that the guidelines should be a decision-maker’s first point of reference. “The guide answers so many questions, if people would take the time to go through it. There are so many yes and nos and yes/maybes. It’s not a cookie cutter procedure. You don’t need a professional engineer’s report every time.”

In fact, exemptions are available in four out of the eight hazardous areas the regulation describes. They include machine guarding, racking, lifting and paint spray booths. That’s because they are considered semi-hazardous since they are pre-engineered.

Ontario labour ministry engineer Mike Reiser finds that guarding changes cause the most uncertainty. “The key thing for equipment guarding is if the type of guard sends signals back to the machine. Changes to a fixed barrier guard will not require a PSHSR if it stays as a fixed guard. If under current standards you now require a light guard, that changes the nature of the guard. It needs to interact with the machine controls.” He confirms that a PSHSR is required unless an exemption can be obtained.

Gabriel Mansour, acting provincial engineer of the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, clarifies the exemption procedure. “Firstly, you may have a machine already designed and manufactured with guarding devices on it. You then need documentation to say it was designed and manufactured to meet industry standards. When this machine arrives at the employers’ location, it needs to be installed. The other piece of documentation, if you are using your own maintenance people, is that it be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Such a document is subject to a review of risk assessment.”

Mansour suggests a team approach to risk assessment. “Your team is made up of many people. It could be the operator, the maintenance manager, an engineer, the supervisor and the manufacturer’s representative. They go through the process of identifying the hazards, and assessing the seriousness of each hazard. Is there a risk of being killed or being scratched? Based on the outcome of the review, they either find the risk is tolerable and they don’t need to do anything, or that they need safeguarding devices with a specific level of reliability.”

Where this is the case, the original machine might have come from one source and the protective devices from another. “Manufacturer means the maker of the original equipment and/or the employer who is responsible for integrating groups of equipment or adding items manufactured in-house,” Mansour explains. “You may have five or six machines that all work together to produce a gizmo at the other end. If the employer chooses to be the systems integrator in this way, he should have documents of risk assessment.”

The effect of combining machinery seems to cause confusion. McIlwrath finds many instances of non-compliance, with employers relying on the certificates for the machines alone. “The contractor’s certificate may apply to the machine they supply, but if it’s attached to a robot or another machine, it’s worthless. They need to certify the whole process.”

He gives the example of pinch points between the machines. “It’s really dependent on how it’s installed. I saw a case where a contractor gave a certificate that said ‘if it is installed the way I built it, it’s safe,’ but the emergency exit of a compressor room opened into the space he designated as the safety area. He didn’t know the wall they were putting it on had a door. You must look at the way it’s going to be on-site.”

The exemption process can be a lot of paperwork, but Wayne Page is sure that it is cheaper overall and hopes industry will start making use of it. “If you spend a few thousand dollars on a professional engineer, you can get a fair bit of paperwork for that.”

David van Rhijn is a systems integrator and proprietor of SD Control Systems; Judy van Rhijn is an Australian-trained solicitor and freelance writer. Both are based in Kitchener, Ont.

What is meant by due diligence?

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety in Hamilton, Ont., due diligence is “the level of judgement, care, prudence, determination, and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to do under particular circumstances. “Applied to occupational health and safety, due diligence means that employers shall take all reas
onable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace. “To exercise due diligence, an employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate corrective action to prevent accidents or injuries arising from these hazards.” In industrial establishments in Ontario, due diligence is applied by having a qualified person, such as a professional engineer, prepare a PSHSR for the machinery or equipment being made, modified or installed.