Canadian Plastics

Understand safety codes when buying plastics processing machinery

I n a modern processing plant, something needs to be fixed, installed, relocated or purchased every day. For decision-makers, it's very important in these cases to make the right decisions. But how do...

July 1, 2008   By Simon Fridlyand, S. A. F. E. Engineering Inc.



In a modern processing plant, something needs to be fixed, installed, relocated or purchased every day. For decision-makers, it’s very important in these cases to make the right decisions. But how do they do that?

The process begins by gathering information. It’s a well-known axiom that if everybody had all of the available information right at his or her fingertips, it would be easy to make the right decision all the time. However, gathering and assessing information is not that easy. First, a person needs to know what questions to ask. Asking an incorrect question or a wrong person leads to inaccurate and wrong answers.

Incorrect information leads, in turn, to bad decisions. For example, my company, S. A. F. E. Engineering Inc., was recently asked to provide a Pre-Start Health and Safety Review (PSR) for an extrusion machine. There was an urgent need to get this machine operational. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) had sold similar machines to our client in the past. Purchasing went ahead, and the client bought the machine. When we were called in, the machine was up and running. A quick PSR was expected from us. We discovered that the machine had an insufficient guarding arrangement and that the control system was not control-reliable as mandated by the machine guarding standards. The most important discovery, however, was that the machine had to go into a Hazardous Location Classified environment as determined by the Canadian Electrical Code.

The problems relating to the machine guarding issues could possibly be addressed through machine upgrade. Compliance to the Electrical Code, however, required changes to all electrical motors and other electrical equipment and wiring. Fixing the machine at the job site became an impossible task.

BUYER BEWARE

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) in Ontario requires owners of industrial machines and processes to make sure that machine, equipment or process is in compliance with the Act, and assigns the responsibility for compliance to the owner of the equipment and not to the OEM. The PSR process requires a professional engineer registered in Ontario to review and certify machinery, equipment or processes for compliance with the current and applicable standards.

In the above example a wrong decision cost the company a new machine, lost production time and lots of aggravation. PSR considerations, therefore, must be included in the decision-making process.

Also, to ask proper questions about compliance, one needs to understand various codes and standards. Understanding multi-disciplinary issues is not an easy task. An engineering firm conducting a PSR should be consulted before a purchasing decision is reached. The old adage about buyer beware is very much applicable to this situation.

A simpler way of insuring compliance is through the purchasing process. When purchasing documents are prepared, it’s easy to specify the OEM shall contact a company like S. A. F. E. Engineering Inc. We will advise the OEM of the requirements and, if necessary, help with design to achieve compliance with the current and applicable Canadian Codes and Standards. A PSR report with a statement of compliance will be issued as soon as machine or process is installed at the client’s facility.

COSTLY PENALTIES

Similar decisions shall be made when the machine or process is altered or relocated. If a wrong decision leads to failures that result in a serious injury or fatality, the consequences are enormous. Under the Act, failure to comply with the requirements could result in prosecution and penalties for officers, directors, and engineers. A corporation convicted of noncompliance could face a maximum fine of $500,000 per count. For individuals, the maximum fine is $25,000 per count, plus a 20 per cent victim surcharge and or imprisonment for up to 12 months.

The bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code of Canada became law in 2004. It’s known as Bill C-45, or The Occupational Health and Safety Criminal Negligence Bill, and it created the offence of occupational health and safety negligence. According to Article 3, “everyone who undertakes, or has the authority to direct how other person does work or performs a task, is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

The fines in the Criminal Code have been increased from $25,000 per count to $100,000 for individuals. There is no maximum for corporations. Corporate representatives and senior officers face fines and imprisonment of up to 25 years, in addition to any fine or imprisonment that may be levied under the applicable provincial health and safety legislation

On December 7, 2007 there was a first conviction under Bill C-45. Don’t let your company become another.

Simon Fridlyand, P. Eng., is president of S. A. F. E. Engineering Inc., a Torontobased company specializing in industrial health and safety issues and PSR compliance. He can be reached 416-447-9757 or simonf@safeengineering.ca.


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