Friday, February 26, 2016

Who is Responsible for Safety?

We talked in our last blog about the many different elements of a comprehensive due diligence program. Workplace safety and health legislation in Canada is geared towards the employer having the majority of the responsibility in providing and maintaining a safe work environment. But workers have responsibilities as well, including taking reasonable care to protect their safety and using devices and PPE provided to them for their protection. The best safety and health programs have employers and employees working together to ensure a safe working environment for everyone.

So where is the line between employer responsibility and worker responsibility? This topic of discussion can get very murky. Every situation is unique and everyone can have differing opinions on who should or should not have done something.

The Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act states that it is a worker’s responsibility to use the safety devices provided to them. But what if they were never properly trained on how to use that device? What if they were provided the device a year ago, but they never used it and were never disciplined for not using it? The employer has given the impression that it is not important nor necessary.

How about a situation where a six foot high fence is installed across the rear of a machine but the company leaves a ladder stored directly beside the fence? They are providing an easy means of defeating that safeguard. What if the employee climbs the fence with no aid or intervention? What other controls were put in place to deter the employee from doing this?

What if an employer installs a chain across the rear of a machine with a sign that says “do not enter”? Is this sufficient? Have we done all that we can do to prevent a worker from walking back there? Is that an adequate control for the level of risk? What if it is required to go back there to change tooling, have we provided an alternative, safe way of performing that necessary task or are we setting up our workers to have to defeat safety controls?

There are so many different scenarios and differing opinions. The important thing to keep in mind is that as an employer it is your responsibility to not only provide a safe workplace and to ensure that your employees understand how to work safely, but also to inspect and enforce on a regular basis. At the end of the day, if a worker is injured it will be Workplace Safety and Health or the law courts deciding who did not fulfil their due diligence requirements.

Posted by Kristin Petaski at 10:45 AM 0 Comments

Friday, February 12, 2016

Are you following all elements of due diligence?

 

      Most of us are aware of what due diligence means and that we must be prudent to ensure that we are doing our due diligence to protect our workers and ourselves. Have you ever thought about ensuring that you have met the requirements of the many different elements of a due diligence program and at what point does a situation go outside of your due diligence and cross into circumstances outside of your control?

      Let’s take a closer look at due diligence as it relates to machine safety. The major elements of a due diligence program are:

  1. Identifying hazards:  Have you allocated appropriate resources to identifying hazards in your workplace? Do you take a continuous improvement approach towards identifying hazards, or have performed an audit ten years ago and not considered it since? As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your workplace is a safe environment and the best way to do this is to continuously be looking for ways to improve.
  2.  Controlling hazards:  Have you taken a systematic approach to controlling hazards in your workplace by applying the hierarchy of controls? Have the controls that you’ve implemented been designed in accordance with legislation and applicable standards? Have the controls been designed in such a way to discourage workers from defeating them? This last question is the one that can end up causing you a lot of grief if an incident occurs. If you’ve identified a serious hazard that can cause major harm and you install a guard rail (which can be easily jumped over or stepped through), have you really done all that is reasonably practicable to protect your workers? Ensure that the safeguarding control you implement is effective for the level of hazard you are protecting from.
  3.  Training: This can be an obvious one that most of us all know. You must train your workers to understand the hazards of their job and know how to work safely and properly use the controls you put in place for them.
  4. Enforcement: This is one that we often forget, but it’s a biggie. You could do all of the above perfectly, but if you witness a worker defeating a safeguard or working unsafely and you do not enforce the rules, guess who can be found at fault? Not the worker, it will be you. It is so important not only to give your workers all the tools they need to do their job safely but to ensure that they do in fact follow the rules.

Keep a lookout for our next blog where we will discuss the differences between employer due diligence and employee responsibility.

Posted by Kristin Petaski at 2:08 PM 0 Comments

Friday, February 12, 2016

Always be Reviewing Risk

At a recent presentation we gave, the question came up:  Should risk assessments be reviewed periodically, and how often?  The answer to the first part of the question is a resounding yes, and the answer to the second part really depends.  Risk Assessments are an important part of a machine safeguarding plan.  Its important to note that the best risk assessments are not static documents but living documents that change with conditions.  In our newest blog we discuss some conditions that may necessitate a review of your machine risk assessments.

 

We’ll go under the assumption that your machine safeguarding plan is built upon risk assessments.  Its an important building block, and the whole discussion following is about reviewing them periodically.  Its important that you have them, so that if things change with your equipment, you know the work and due diligence you did to get to this point.  So what might generate a review of risk assessments?

 

Incident or Near Miss:  Lets hope it was a near miss, but any type of incident would be an important trigger for a review of the risk assessments.  Take the information from your near miss report and cross check your risk assessment.  Did you have the root cause of the incident as a hazard on your risk assessment?  Were the controls you proposed sufficient to protect the worker?  These near miss reviews can be important clues to how well prepared you are.  Was the incident with an operator, or maybe a third party?  Maybe all the tasks and hazards were not considered because third parties weren’t considered originally.

 

Process Change:  Perhaps you are moving a piece of equipment or making a change to the products that will be run on it.  This would be another opportunity to review the risk assessment.  A process change or new product could create new tasks, or maybe new hazards.  An example might be adding new products that require a helper or additional operator.  The original risk assessment might have only considered one operator, and the review might uncover new hazards when a second person is added to the task.

 

Established Time:  You may want to avoid waiting for the above conditions to happen, in case they are not a set frequency.  You might just want to set an established frequency for all of your risk assessment reviews.  You could vary that time period depending on the overall risk of the equipment.  High risk machines could be reviewed more often than lower risk equipment, so that the work to review multiple risk assessments doesn’t happen to overwhelm the team.

 

 

No matter what you choose to trigger your reviews, its important to understand you always want to be reviewing risk.

Posted by Kristin Petaski at 7:29 AM 0 Comments