WSPS Advocate Newsletter - September 2010 Edition


Get Ready: MOL Blitz to Target Sprains and Strains this Fall
Inspectors will visit workplaces with a high frequency of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) has announced that
musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of its enforcement blitz from September 15 to November 15, 2010. That means businesses may be visited by an MOL inspector looking for hazards that put your employees at risk for sprains and strains. MOL has performed an analysis of workplaces with high frequency of MSD injuries and hazards. Inspectors will pay particular attention to tasks requiring workers to use their muscles to exert force to lift, push or carry items. Here's what you need to know, what you need to have in place, and where you can find the tools to help.

Let's start with the numbers from MOL, which are staggering:
These numbers have convinced the ministry that companies must be held accountable for exposing workers to risk factors associated with MSDs:

  • Direct claim costs, from 2003 to 2008, are over $640 million and 6 million days of lost time.
  • Total lost-time injury (LTI) costs for MSDs in 2008 was 43%. This is up from 41% in 2003.
  • Total MSD LTIs in 2008 was 43%. This is up from 40% in 2003.
  • From 2003 to 2008, total LTI rates have been dropping at a faster rate than MSD-related LTI rates.

How ergonomics can save you money
Certain aspects of a job or the way the job is done increases the risk of a worker developing an MSD, or soft-tissue injury. Ergonomics address MSD hazards by fitting the work environment to the worker, making better use of the human body's strengths, and limiting the use of the body when it is vulnerable to injury. For example, applying ergonomic principles--reducing repetitive movements, forceful movements and fixed or awkward positioning--early in the design phase of a new process or task adds little cost and can prevent many MSDs and related compensation claims, which of course saves money.

The ministry's goals for its MSD blitz are threefold:

  • To enhance MSD enforcement efforts;
  • To raise awareness of the importance of addressing MSDs (see the numbers cited above);
  • To identify prevention resources available to workplaces through Workplace Safety and Prevention Services and other provincial health and safety associations.

What the law requires
Employers are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from hazards, including those that may result in MSD injuries. The MSD prevention guideline, announced in February 2007, is clear about employers' obligations (see "free downloads," below). Numerous sections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations relate to MSD prevention and ergonomics. Among them are:

  • 25 2(a) -- provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.
  • 25 1(b) -- employer shall ensure that equipment provided by the employer is maintained in good condition.
  • 25(2)(h) -- employer shall take every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker.
  • 45 (a) of the Industrial Establishments Regulation (O. Reg. 851) - the employer shall ensure that the objects required to be lifted, carried or moved, shall be lifted, carried or moved in such a way and with such precautions and safeguards as will ensure that the lifting, carrying or moving does not endanger the safety of any worker.
  • 37 of the construction regulations (O. Reg. 213/91) -- material or equipment at a project shall be stored and moved in a manner that does not endanger a worker.

What you can do to prepare
MOL inspectors don't wait for excuses, or even reasons, for non-compliance. The best strategy you can take is preparation:

  1. Familiarize yourself with MSD hazards in your workplace.
  2. Perform your own workplace audit.
  3. Have a well-documented MSD program visibly in place, and implement MSD-specific strategies, tools and training.
  4. Call WSPS to review hazards before MOL inspectors come knocking.

Perhaps the best way to prepare is to examine the MOL's results from the month-long MSD hazards blitz conducted in 2009. Inspectors visited 1,593 workplaces, some more than once. Inspectors issued 4,541 MSD-related orders. The most common order required employers to:

  • Provide information, instruction and supervision to workers
  • Conduct a risk assessment
  • Have a written policy or program for doing certain hazardous tasks
  • Ensure workers are not endangered when handling materials
  • Develop measures and procedures in consultation with the Joint Health & Safety Committee
  • Put measures and procedures in writing

What to do if an inspector arrives at your door
MOL inspectors will perform an administrative review, which includes looking at your:

  • Internal Responsibility System: for example, is your Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) performing monthly inspections, and do you have written health and safety policies in place?
  • MSD injury statistics: have you documented MSD-related injuries at your workplace?
  • Joint Health & Safety Committee minutes
  • Written procedures and training on MSD hazards, signs, symptoms and controls

How we can help
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), the organization created by the amalgamation of Farm Safety Association (FSA), Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA), and Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA), has six ergonomists on staff to assist you with your MSD prevention efforts, which includes a free consultation. We can offer a comprehensive list of courses and downloadable resources from WSPS, Ontario's prevention system partners, and others.

How we can help

Free downloads:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) Prevention Series, featuring a guideline, resource manual, and toolbox
  • Ergonomic assessments, e.g., discomfort survey, hazard checklist, risk assessment and tool selection checklist
  • Hazard tip sheets
  • Publications, e.g., Manual Materials Handling, Safe Lifting and Carrying, and more
  • A variety of training products and courses related to MSD prevention, materials handling, office ergonomics and back safety.
  • Flexible options for your employees to engage on training, depending on your needs: workshops in your region, onsite workshops at your workplace, self-paced training and online courses.

More free resources are being developed every day. Visit our website again, especially as we get closer to the start of the blitz. Or, contact Workplace Safety & Prevention Services today for more information.

You Knew Us as FSA, IAPA and OSSA
Now we're "WSPS": designed to serve you better

Whether you're a dairy farm or a manufacturer of office chairs, a campground or a manufacturing plant - whether you design it, grow it, make it, ship it, sell it or serve it - welcome to Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), your trusted health and safety advisor. We welcome firms from all sectors to the all-new
Partners in Prevention 2010 conference series: your trusted source for timely, relevant health and safety knowledge in a community conveniently located to you.

We're here to provide you with unparalleled experience and expertise
You already know Workplace Safety & Prevention Services. We've been your prevention partners for more than 150 combined years. Prior to our amalgamation, you knew us as:

  • Farm Safety Association (FSA)
  • Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA)
  • Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA)

It will take time to make a complete transition from our previous identities to WSPS, particularly since we're committed to doing it in a way that makes it as seamless as possible for clients. But step by step, we're getting there. Here's proof:

  • The popular annual IAPA conference and trade show has now expanded into Partners in Prevention 2010: a conference series hosted by all four of the province's newly amalgamated health and safety associations. Check the website for dates and locations, and exhibitor opportunities.
  • We've also launched a WSPS website under Health & Safety Ontario. The new website--just a framework for now--will over time replace the individual FSA, IAPA and OSSA websites. What's the benefit of that to you? You'll be able to easily access a fuller, richer repository of health and safety information, tools and resources through one website, one door.

Building a shared conference series website is only part of the story. The amalgamation will also enable us to increase the number of frontline staff serving clients. More on that in future editions of The Advocate.

How the Ontario prevention system redesigned itself to serve you better
On January 1, 2010, Ontario's 12 health and safety associations were streamlined into four new organizations, all working under the Health & Safety Ontario (HSO) banner, and together serving more than 236,000 businesses.

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), one of the four new firms, has a mandate to meet the health and safety needs of 154,000 businesses in the agricultural, manufacturing and service industries, representing 3.8 million employees across Ontario.

We help businesses, large and small, achieve zero workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities by providing health and safety information, products, programs and services for these industries:

  • agriculture
  • landscaping
  • manufacturing
  • service
  • hospitality
  • retail
  • wholesale trade
Contact WSPS today to find out how we can help you reach ZERO in your workplace.

MOL Blitz Targets Conveyor Guarding and Lockout this November
Frequency may not be high, but severity of injuries is grim

Where would industry be without conveyors? Having become commonplace in a wide spectrum of businesses--including the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors--familiarity with these automated productivity tools often renders their hazards invisible and their operators complacent. Indeed, only about 5% of all lost-time injuries in the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors are caused by contact with machinery. What makes this risk one of Ontario's four priority hazards is the severity of the injuries, not the frequency. Workers who breach guarding and lockout controls can lose limbs and sometimes their lives. No wonder the Ministry of Labour (MOL) has scheduled an
enforcement blitz on conveyor guarding and lockout for November 2010. Here's what employers and supervisors need to know to prepare.

While the emphasis is supposed to be on industrial workplaces, all sectors are vulnerable to the hazards and severity of injuries associated with conveyors. MOL inspectors will likely look for conveyor-related risks even if conveyors weren't the primary focus of their visit. At the time of writing, the MOL hadn't yet posted what they will particularly be looking for as part of the blitz; however, injury trends allow us to make an educated guess.

First, look at what the statistics say
According to the WSIB statistics report for 2009 the lost-time claims for the agriculture, industrial and service sectors resulting from exposure to contact with machinery was 1,426, representing 4.9% of the 29,345 lost time injuries suffered in 2009. (EIW July 2010)

While frequency may not be high, the related injuries can be severe and life-altering, as the following organizations found out (data from MOL court bulletins):

  • Canadian Linen and Uniform Service Co. was fined $95,000 for failing to have a safe procedure to clear jammed overhead conveyors. A worker sustained serious injuries after falling four metres to a concrete floor after trying to fix an overhead conveyor by climbing onto a metal net guarding under the conveyor.
  • Vincor International, an Ontario wine producer, was fined $50,000 for failing to ensure that control switches or other control mechanisms were locked out. A worker injured both hands when trying to clear a jam without locking out a conveyor belt whose interlock system had been set to a bypass position.
  • Rich Products of Canada Limited, a dough maker, was fined $80,000 for failing to ensure its conveyor belt setup had a guard to prevent access to a pinch point. A worker removed dough residue from the belt drive, sustaining multiple fractures and skin loss to an arm when it was drawn in between the belt and the roll of paper under it.

What employers and supervisors should look for
What makes conveyor systems especially challenging is the variety of workplace-specific applications out there. Employers need to undertake a rigorous assessment to safeguard their particular system.

Here are some questions to add to your risk assessment:

  • Are there exposed hazards like in-running nip hazards or pinch points (e.g. motor with chain or belt drive mechanism)?
  • Are the nip hazards and pinch points appropriately guarded: could clothing, jewellery or a finger become entangled and pulled into the machine?
  • Is the conveyor in good operating order? Has maintenance been performed on schedule and have repairs been completed in a timely manner?
  • Have workers been informed of all hazards?
  • Are operators encouraged to report deficiencies to their supervisor?

Ask, "how can we defeat the guard?"
One way to ensure the conveyor is guarded properly is to assess the safeguard by using the "AUTO" method: can workers reach Around, Under, Through or Over the guarding to access the hazard?

Employers have been known to say, "But our workers won't do that; they know better." It is important to note that it doesn't matter why a worker would reach around a guard, it matters that they can. Work instructions, after all, fall prey to human error and are fallible.

Really? Are new and young workers most at risk?
It's true that new and young workers typically have higher than average incident rates, in part because of their inexperience with machinery. It's also true that as they gain experience, incident rates come down. However, what many don't realize is that after a worker gains several years of experience, incident rates can climb back up. Complacency becomes a deadly risk factor for workers who perform the same tasks day in and day out. The antidote is vigilance--through design, installation of guards, and relentless training. If you think complacency has seeped into your workplace, call WSPS: we can help make everything old seem new again by supporting you in a workplace walk-through.

What you can do to prepare
Prepare for MOL inspectors by:

  1. Familiarizing yourself with potential conveyor hazards, and proper guarding and lockout procedures in your workplace.
  2. Performing your own workplace audit, with input from workers, using a tried and true workplace hazard analysis form (Performing risk assessments can result in productivity improvements when employers discover lack of consistency in everyday tasks.)
  3. Having a well-documented safety program in place, and implementing conveyor-safety strategies, tools and training.
  4. Calling WSPS to review hazards before MOL inspectors come knocking.

If MOL inspectors do show up at your door:

  • Cooperate: remember that inspectors have knocked on your door for a reason.
  • Participate: answer questions fully and transparently.
  • Demonstrate: describe any action plans you already have in place.
  • Collaborate: call WSPS conveyor experts for help (see below).

What MOL inspectors will look for:
MOL inspectors will perform an administrative review, which includes looking at your:

  • Internal Responsibility System: for example, is your Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) performing monthly inspections, and do you have written health and safety policies in place?
  • Documentation: have you kept records on any conveyor-related incidents at your workplace?
  • Written procedures and evidence of training on conveyor guarding and lockout procedures, signs, symptoms and controls.

MOL inspectors can also tour your workplace to watch your staff at work and perform a physical review:

  • Do you have a health and safety bulletin board in place with all the required documentation?
  • Are your conveyors in good repair and properly guarded?
    • Does the conveyor have skirt boards?
    • Does it have tail/head pulley guards?
    • Is there access to hazards underneath the conveyor?
    • Has fixed guarding been designed and installed so that a tool is needed to remove it?
  • Are staff observing a comprehensive safety program in the safe operation of conveyors?
  • Are conveyor drives shut down, de-energized and locked out before maintenance?

What grocery stores and airports can teach us
Eliminating hazards during the design stage is probably the most effective strategy of all. Two well-known examples of conveyors guarded so effectively that the hazards are virtually invisible, can be found at:

  • Grocery stores, where customers place their groceries on a conveyor system with enclosed ends, sides and bottom, limiting access to hazardous motion.
  • Airports, where travellers safely retrieve luggage from a conveyor whose drive mechanism has been concealed to restrict access to hazardous components.
The Act requires the same design precautions for workers in the workplace. Going to work should not put anyone more at risk than going to the grocery store or to the airport.

Where to go for help
The November blitz is just around the corner. WSPS is your trusted advisor for conveyor-related expertise and information.


Imagine MOL Telling You What to Expect at Your Next Inspection
They do! You just need to know where to find the data

When was the last time a teacher tipped you off to the questions in an upcoming exam? An unlikely scenario, true - and yet this is pretty much what the Ministry of Labour is doing with its readily available but under-appreciated "sector plans," designed to tip you off to what inspectors will look for during a workplace inspection. Sector plans can be an effective planning tool, but before we show you where to find them, let's look at the creative ways you can use them to shape and nourish your health and safety program.

Sector plans are a boon for employers
MOL inspectors make thousands of visits annually to workplaces just like yours, collecting detailed information about the hazards specific to your sector as they go, and summarizing their findings in their annual sector-specific enforcement plans. The plans set out the MOL's priorities for blitz and random inspections, and the decision to openly share this information is both a tribute to the MOL and a boon for industry. The information in these plans is:

  • Written in plain language, so it's easy to understand and immediately press into action.
  • Sub-sector specific, so it's relevant and applicable to your workplace.
  • Evidence-based, so it's a valid and reliable source of data for your strategic planning.

What you can learn from the MOL's sector plan
Say you're a fast food producer. Would it help to know the three risks MOL inspectors have in their sights for a future slips, trips and falls blitz? What about the seven risks in material handling that inspectors plan to focus on? It's all here - and much more.

Here's what else you can glean from the MOL's two-page plan for the food and beverage sub-sector:

  • Number of critical injuries and fatalities reported to the MOL from 2007 to 2009
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) lost-time injury rate per 100 workers
  • The top nine causes of the most costly injuries and illnesses in 2008
  • The number of inspections conducted and orders issued between 2007 and 2009
  • The violations behind the five most common orders issued
  • What the ministry perceives to be this sub-sector's demographic and characteristics
  • The top 10 hazards the MOL believes workers in this sub-sector are exposed to
  • The specific risk areas identified by inspectors for seven major overall hazards - some of which predict the focus of 2011 MOL enforcement blitzes

Eight ways you can put the data to work
The sector plan reflects what the MOL believes are the high-priority hazards for your industry and sub-sector. You can use these priorities to help you:

  1. Conduct annual and quarterly health and safety risk assessments, particularly those that may not have been on your radar.
  2. Build a framework for your health and safety program and binders.
  3. Design your training agenda.
  4. Develop a daily "safety talk" checklist for supervisors that helps them improve employees' awareness of the hazards in their different areas of work.
  5. Design a checklist for new employees or young workers reminding them about the safe procedures needed to head off the common hazards at their workplace.
  6. Shape the meeting agendas and inspection schedule of your Joint Health and Safety Committee.
  7. Benchmark your firm's health and safety performance against that of your sub-sector.
  8. Strengthen your situational analysis within your business plan to support investments in your health and safety program.

How to find the MOL sub-sector plans
It's easy to find the data once you know what you're looking for:

  1. Go to the Ministry of Labour's main Sector Plan page under "Key Resources" in the Safe at Work Ontario section.
  2. Select Industrial Sector Plan 2010-2011.
  3. Choose from the 29 sub-sectors listed in the table of contents.
While understanding prevention gaps is important, applying tried and true, sector-specific health and safety solutions is even more so. That's where your health and safety association shines. Our business is helping you shine, too. Call Workplace Safety & Prevention Services for more information.

What You Don't Know About Your Workers' Literacy Could Hurt Them
Growing number of voices draw the link between literacy and worker health and safety

Look around. More and more critical jobs belong to people who are functionally illiterate: picking and preparing food, making products, servicing cars, selling goods and services. Each of these jobs has inherent risks and safe procedures workers need to know to protect themselves. Yet more than four in 10 Canadian workers do not have the literacy skills needed to perform most jobs well, for reasons that include but go far beyond English not being their mother tongue.
A Conference Board of Canada report released in 2008 says that workers who are unable to read and understand health and safety guidelines written in English are at increased risk of injuries, illnesses and absenteeism--putting their employers at increased risk of higher WSIB premiums, claims and fines.

You may be living this reality right now, as you hire and retain workers whose literacy skills prevent them from fully understanding your health and safety training. What can employers do to bridge this growing gap?

Does your health and safety record reflect poor literacy?
Between 48% and 60% of skilled craft workers, machine operators and assemblers, and agriculture and primary workers have literacy levels below what they need for coping with the demands of everyday life and work, according to the International Adult Literacy Survey cited in the Conference Board's 2008 report, All Signs Point to Yes.

Margaret Eaton, president of ABC Life Literacy Canada, tells a story of the CEO of a major Canadian company who finally figured out that workers weren't responding to direction because, very simply, they didn't understand what was being asked of them. Perhaps the penny took as long as it did to drop because of the tendency of employers to be more confident in the ability of their workers to understand health and safety policies, than workers are (Conference Board of Canada survey).

That said, poor literacy is a social stigma that workers will not readily admit to. According to Margaret Eaton, it can reveal itself through:

  • Lack of confidence in speaking out when confronted with unsafe work
  • Unwillingness to say "I don't know" or "I don't understand"
  • Other subtle behaviours, including resistance to change, new technology, even advancement and promotion (in case the added expectations expose poor skills)

Making workplace literacy a corporate objective
A recent story in the Vancouver Sun indicates most Canadians agree that improving literacy levels is the key to boosting the economy. National and local literacy groups have gone a step further, saying workplaces need to take a greater role in helping to improve the reading and writing skills of staff. There is increasing evidence that programs focusing on worker literacy are making a difference to workplace safety and productivity.

The Board's survey report, "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You - Literacy's Impact on Workplace Health and Safety," summarizes the efforts of 10 firms that have taken action to improve literacy skills of workers in the interests of health and safety. One of these firms is De Beers Canada, which:

  • Required supervisors to conduct twice-yearly performance assessments with staff to discover learning gaps and create programs to close them;
  • Offered workers personal time off dedicated to learning;
  • Provided in-house literacy training that is offered one-on-one to bridge issues of embarrassment.

Two steps you can take right now
Employers can take small steps immediately that will aid workers in understanding health and safety directives; for example:

  • Rethink how you provide information:
    • Use more visuals.
    • Do more verbal sharing; rely less on the written word.
  • Make health and safety training a discussion: rather than "delivering" or "presenting" information:
    • Talk about everyday situations and challenges that are relevant to workers, using language at a level they understand and relate to.

Watch for pictograms in 2011
The Ontario prevention system has taken the first few steps toward a solution that even a child learning to read would endorse: "pictograms"--visual warning labels with pictures or symbols that remind workers, wordlessly, about hazards and how to avoid them. Contact Kim Grant, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, for more information: 905-614-3011, kgrant@ossa.com.

We'll address other perspectives related to literacy in the next edition of The Advocate.

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