Canadian Plastics

Playing it safe

By Umair Abdul, editorial assistant   

Newer occupational health and safety videos are perhaps best known for their lurid accounts and graphic reenactments of preventable accidents at Canadian workplaces.

Newer occupational health and safety videos are perhaps best known for their lurid accounts and graphic reenactments of preventable accidents at Canadian workplaces.

But for business operators and employers who are left feeling numb by the visual onslaught of possibilities, a fiscal consideration of the toll of questionable safety can be just as sobering.

Consider this: in an increasingly competitive and lean manufacturing climate, Canadian businesses are cutting deep to keep their overhead costs low. In addition to protecting your employees, effective safety programs are good for the bottom line.

For example, the average cost of a workplace injury in Ontario in 2006 — which includes medical expenses, the cost of hiring new staff, and the loss in production — was $98,000. In provinces like Saskatchewan, companies that fail to improve their workplace health and safety record could see their workers’ compensation costs go up by 200 per cent in certain sectors.


As provincial enforcers work to reduce workplace injuries, OHS regulatory compliance is becoming a priority concern.

Canadian Plastics has conducted a cross-Canada survey of basic OHS requirements and new legislation to help keep your business on the straight and narrow with provincial occupational health and safety obligations.


The Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety branch conducted 65,500 safety inspections in the last fiscal year, 11,800 of which took place in the manufacturing and processing sector. Ontario has been working to target “high risk” workplaces over the last three years, as part of the MoL’s plan to cut lost-time injuries by 20 per cent by 2008.

Inspectors ensure that the company’s internal responsibility system (IRS) is active and effective. Ontario workplaces with five or more employees are required to have a health and safety representative, and an operation with more than 20 employees must have a joint health and safety committee in place. In addition, the committee should have regular meetings, and management and worker reps should be trained in how the OHS Act is applied.

“The IRS is the foundation, so they are looking to see that the IRS is working within the workplace,” explained Jim Armstrong, director of consulting services for Ontario’s Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA).

In addition to recently doubling the number of OH&S inspectors, legislative changes in the last year will have a direct impact on the plastics sector. Ontario’s confined spaces legislation was changed to enhance protections for workers, particularly in the areas of procedural protocols, appropriate training and precautions.

As well, effective July 1, 2007, Ontario has reduced the average allowable noise level from 90 dBA to 85 dBA for an eight-hour shift.

“That might not sound like it’s being cut in half, but the dBA scale is a logarithmic scale,” explained Armstrong.

The change will bring Ontario’s regulations in line with most other provinces, and may impact the direction of safety inspections of industrial environments.


Safety inspectors from Quebec’s Commission de la sant et de la scurit du travail (CSST) conducted 250 inspections in the plastics industry in 2005, resulting in 88 infractions for dangerous way of work.

Unlike most provinces, Quebec does not prescribe a specific plan based on the size of the enterprise. However, plastic facility operators in the province must be mindful of the CSST’s machine guarding and safety initiatives.

The regulatory body initiated a machine safety action plan in 2005 in response to the high number of machine-related accidents. Of the approximately 3,000 accidents that took place in the plastics industries in 2006, about 500 were related to machines.

“Machine guarding is a major problem in the plastics industry, especially with injection and compression molding machines,” said CSST spokesperson Hlose Bernier-Leduc.

Business operators in Quebec will also be affected by new legislative requirements. In particular, the Rglement sur la sant et la scurit was recently amended to change the exposure time or level to, among other things, certain solvents and lead. Also, although Quebec is the only remaining province with an average allowable noise level of 90 dBA, OH&S experts expect that legislation to change in the near future.


According to OHS legislation in B.C., employers with a workforce of more than 20 workers must maintain an occupational health and safety program. WorkSafeBC, the provincial regulator, has also embarked on a Manufacturing High Risk Strategy that has their prevention officers focusing on three key areas — the internal responsibility systems, safeguarding and musculoskeletal injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) account for almost one-third of all injuries in the manufacturing sector, and approximately 21 per cent of injuries are the result of inadequate safeguarding.

WorkSafeBC is also working with employer associations in food & beverage, wood products, and heavy & general manufacturing to establish health and safety associations at the sub sector level.

Workplace fatality rates in Alberta have been steadily declining, and safety inspectors conduct nearly 13,000 inspections each year. Although Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry spokesperson Barrie Harrison said there is no new major legislation, a recent workplace fatality has brought renewed attention to the need for translation services.

Two Chinese workers at a mining project were killed when the roof of a storage tank collapsed in April, and questions were raised about whether the workers spoke English and understood the employer’s OHS policies. The incident highlighted the importance of making sure that all employees, regardless of their native tongue, understand workplace policies.

“We have always had a lot of languages spoken here aside from English and French,” explained Harrison. “[Safety inspectors] want to ensure that the language is not a barrier to working safely in any workplace.”

Staff at the Workplace Safety and Health division at Manitoba Labour and Immigration conduct about 6,000 inspections per year, and more inspectors will be hired over the next two years.

The division noted that its officials have seen some improvements in the manufacturing sector — mainly with machine guarding and the use of personal protective equipment — but common problems such as the lack of written health and safety programs and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries still exist.

In Saskatchewan, workplaces with 10 or more workers are required to have an occupational health and safety program.

Ergonomics is also a major consideration in the province, because musculoskeletal disorders account for 60-70 per cent of claims in the manufacturing sector.

“The body mechanics in the manufacturing process operation are no different in some cases than a construction site,” noted Robert Ross, manager of the Occupational Health and Safety division at Saskatchewan Labour. “A lot of the time, the equipment is manufactured without an in-depth consideration of the end-user.”

Saskatchewan Labour is also currently working on creating joint industry committees (JICs) with sector-based associations, and mulling over the idea of creating a certificate of recognition program.


New Brunswick’s Workplace Health, Safety & Compensation Commission issued 5,000 orders in 2006, 2,000 of which were in the manufacturing sector. Of the total orders, 10 per cent involved protective equipment violations, 12 per cent involved mechanical safety violations, and 12 per cent were related to handling and storage.

The WHSCC also introduced a demerits policy in January 2006, whereby an employer is issued a demerit — an additional payment of assessment owed to the commission — for non-compliance or unsafe work pract

Additionally, a spokesperson noted that lockout violations are a primary focus, and the commission has initiated a zero tolerance program to reduce these types of violations.

Workplaces in Newfoundland and Labrador with 10 or more workers are required to have an OHS committee in place.

Manufacturers in Newfoundland and Labrador can expect to see significant new OHS legislation in the coming months. “Within the next year, the division hopes to bring substantial changes to the OHS regulations,” said spokesperson Vanessa Colman-Sadd. “This will include a more prescriptive ventilation section, a musculoskeletal injury prevention section, and lockout/tagout regulations.”

Manufacturing accounts for nearly 16 per cent of the activity at Nova Scotia Environment and Labour’s OHS Division. Employers in the province are required to have an OHS committee if the employ 20 or more people, and have a policy in place for a workforce of more than five workers.

According to the division’s director Jim LeBlanc, the effectiveness of these committees and policies is the most “crucial issue” for manufacturers. The division will be releasing a discussion document on improving internal responsibility systems in the near future.

Most of the provinces are taking aim at a similar set of issues, and initiating action in areas such as machine guarding, noise level control and manufacturing ergonomics. Familiarizing yourself with forthcoming legislation and implementing measures to meet regulatory requirements will improve your compliance with provincial OHS legislation, and — most important — save lives. CPL

New safety products

Hot mill gloves for high temperatures

D-M-E Molding Supplies offers three types of hot mill gloves in both men’s and women’s sizes, with two versions good in temperatures up to 232C (450F) and a Kevlar glove good up to 260C (500F). The comfortable and breathable gloves feature high heat nitrile blocks and seamless double knit construction.

D-M-E Co. (Madison Heights, Mich.);; 888-808-0706

Safety light curtain for adjacent devices

The COMPACT PlusType 4 Safety Light Curtain by Leuze Electronic, available through distributor Vickers-Warnick, offers fault-free operation of adjacent devices with selection of different transmission channels. The light curtain is maintenance-free with safety transistor outputs (OSSD). It also offers MultiScan for environments with extreme stray light.

Vickers-Warnick (Stoney Creek, Ont.);; 800-263-6835

Safety light curtains with comprehensive features

Omron Scientific Technologies, Inc.’s MiniSafe MS4800 safety light curtains are available in Advanced, Standard and Basic versions. Optical scan codes eliminate cross talk, individual beam indicators simplify alignment, external device monitoring ensures control reliability, and the machine test signal allows the control system to confirm proper operation of the outputs. Additionally, Advanced and Standard allow users to select Automatic Start or Start/Restart mode for point-of-operation or perimeter guarding.

Omron Canada Inc. (Toronto);; 416-286-6465


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