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Standards don’t mean compliance, say experts

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

Does your machine guarding system comply with applicable standards or do they comply with the requirements of the legislation?

There’s a difference, according to legal experts, and your answer to this question may determine whether your company is on the side of the law.

“Standards are an important way of understanding how you meet these performance-based piece of the legislation. But remember, we don’t enforce standards. Standards are useful in understanding how the legislation may be applied in the workplace, but we enforce the legislation,” said Wayne DeL’Orme, provincial coordinator with the Ontario Ministry of Labour. De L’Orme was one of the speakers at a machine safety panel discussion held at the IAPA Health and Safety Canada Tradeshow and Conference on April 22nd.

DeL’Orme cautioned safety practitioners attending the session to be “extremely careful” and ensure that the level of risk that a standard they’re implementing in their organization allows meets the legislative requirement on machine guarding, which is preventing both inadvertent and intentional access to a moving part.

“In simplistic terms, if a worker can touch a moving part that can do them harm, it’s not guarded. And that ability to touch a moving part goes beyond your workplace policies, it goes beyond using or the design of a machine,” said DeL’Orme.

Echoing DeL’Orme’s comments, Cheryl Edwards, partner at Toronto-based law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP, noted the same is true when undertaking pre-start health and safety reviews (PSRs), Edwards said. Having a PSR does not necessarily mean a company is compliant with regulatory standards.

“The employer has to be cautious that the PSR is in compliance with the legislation. It not only has to be thorough, but it has to be in compliance with the law,” Edwards stressed.

The Toronto lawyer also noted that Ontario and other jurisdictions in Canada have been seeking “astoundingly high” corporate and individual penalties following a workplace accident or serious legislative contravention, saying it has become “the norm” across Canada.

Edwards cited several OHS prosecution cases where companies were fined anywhere between $100,000 to $350,000 following a serious or fatal workplace injury.

Also part of the machine safety panel was Simon Fridlyand, president of S.A.F.E. Engineering Inc., who spoke to attendees about implementing an effective machine guarding system.

The session entitled, On the side of the law, was part of two machine guarding sessions, which complemented the 2009 Machine Automation Safety Congress, a special pavilion within the Health and Safety Canada tradeshow featuring leading suppliers in the area of machine safety and machine guarding.

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