Machines don’t know where you are

October 22, 2014

Image from Safeguarding Machinery and Equipment by WorkSafeBC

Image from Safeguarding Machinery and Equipment by WorkSafeBC

Automated machines call for the greatest concern with respect to safeguarding. I thought about this concept today when I spoke with Ian Rood, who specializes in machine safeguarding and process design.

Ian is one of the guest speakers at Make it Safe, the 2014 manufacturing safety conference on Nov 4 and 5 in Burnaby.

“The machine doesn’t know you’re there, so if it’s got to move from Point A to Point B, and you get in the way, it’s not going to stop,” he says. “If there is an electrical, pneumatic, or hydraulic system involved, it should be assessed.”

In Ian’s break-out session, Machine Guarding, he’s presenting a case study of a recent project, from assessment to remediation. It’s on Day 2 from 1 to 2:15 p.m. He’s also covering regulatory requirements, using safeguards as an alternate form of lockout, and the risk assessment model.

Other speakers at the conference are looking at ergonomics, MSIs, mental health, anti-bullying, new WHMIS requirements, and why it’s good business to work safely.

“If we make a business case for safety – if we take the safety aspect out of it…forgetting about the person who’s getting hurt and having their life changed – the cost to the employer is not worth it,” Ian says.

“You could have spent your money on safeguarding or you’re going to have to spend your money on fines and then spend your money on safeguarding. There are efficiencies to be gained by using available technology and safeguards as an alternate form of lockout, which can save an organization significant downtime.”

Definition of safeguarding and lockout?

For an in-depth look at these definitions, start with Safeguarding Machinery and Equipment: General Requirements from WorkSafeBC.

The publication describes safeguarding as “the first line of defence in ensuring the safety of workers operating powered machinery and equipment,” and it includes “barrier guards, safety devices, shields, awareness barriers, warning signs, or other appropriate means, used singly or in combination.”

“Lockout,” it says, “protects workers when machinery or equipment is shut down for maintenance (including repairs and clearing jams).”

Thanks to Ian for giving me a preview of what he’s going to discuss at Make it Safe – which you can attend, if you are interested.

Calling WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Info Line

October 15, 2014

Photo credit: Chapendra/Kendra on Flickr

I’ve always wondered how many people call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line – so I got in touch with Angelo Cabalfin, manager of Prevention Support.

He told me the Prevention Information Line receives an average of 1,100 calls a week from people who want to (as the website says):

  • Report an unsafe condition or situation in a workplace
  • Request a worksite inspection consultation
  • Get information about workplace health and safety issues
  • Get information about the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation
  • Report a serious accident/incident or major chemical release

“Our highest volume of calls comes from workers who have questions or concerns about health and safety practices in their workplace,” Angelo said. “Questions can range from ‘I have concerns about the work I am doing. Is it safe?’ or ‘Is my employer following the appropriate protocols with respect to health and safety?’”

The right to refuse unsafe work is entrenched in Part 3 of the OHS Regulation: Refusal of Unsafe Work. It reads, “A person must not carry out or cause to be carried out any work process or operate or cause to be operated any tool, appliance or equipment if that person has reasonable cause to believe that to do so would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person.”

Calling the Prevention Information Line is a good first step for workers who are concerned.

“Any time you have concerns about workplace safety, please contact us,” said Angelo, sharing a message to anyone in need of information. “It is always a good idea to err on the side of caution and get clarification if you are concerned about a work-related injury occurring.”

Some calls are from the general public, when people see work practices that look unsafe.

“They want us to be informed so that injuries are avoided at worksites and to ensure both workers and employers are compliant with health and safety best practices,” he said.

Other calls come from employers and first responders to an injury or fatality.

“We also get calls from employers wanting to confirm if they’re compliant with certain safety regulations, as well as first responders – fire, ambulance, possibly the RCMP or other police jurisdictions – contacting us when they have been notified of a work-related fatality or serious injury,” he said.

A number of calls are about bullying and harassment, for which there have been new laws against since November 1, 2013. Between then and Jan 31, 2014, the Prevention Information Line has received 746 calls related to bullying and harassment, reports the May/June 2014 issue of WorkSafe Magazine. That’s an average of 57 calls a week – with 30 percent alleging a manager was bullying and 27 percent identifying a coworker.

The Prevention Information Line can be reached at 604 276-3100 in the Lower Mainland and 1 888 621-7233 toll-free within BC and Alberta. To report after-hours safety and health emergencies, call 1 866 922-4357

Machines don’t know where you are

“The machine doesn’t know you’re there, so if it’s got to move from Point A to Point B, and you get in the way, it’s not going to stop.”

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