Understanding Machine Guarding, Safeguarding, & Lockout Procedures
In the industrial landscape, various forms of potentially hazardous energy, such as electrical, thermal, chemical, pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical, and gravitational, course through businesses. These energies must be effectively controlled through lockout, blocking, or release procedures to prevent machinery or equipment from activating unexpectedly during installation, repair, or maintenance. Lockout/tagout protocols are specific procedures designed to shield employees from the unforeseen start-up of machinery and the release of hazardous energy.
To mitigate the risk of severe injuries like crushed fingers, hands, amputations, burns, or blindness caused by moving machine parts, it is imperative to implement machine guarding and safeguarding measures. These protective measures, whether provided by the manufacturer or the owner, should not be removed or rendered ineffective.
Legal Framework in Ontario
Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act places a duty on employers to take reasonable precautions to protect workers. Sections 25, 27, and 28 outline the responsibilities of employers, supervisors, and workers. Additional legislation, including the Industrial Establishments Regulation (Reg. 851), covers aspects such as premises, machine guarding, temporary elevation, maintenance and repairs, protective equipment, and more. Specific regulations for the mining industry, construction projects, and equipment storage are also outlined in relevant legislation.
Benefits of a Comprehensive Program
A well-established machine guarding, safeguarding, and lockout program are crucial for preventing serious injuries and fatalities resulting from uncontrolled hazardous energy sources. Such a program ensures that all energies are properly locked out and remain so until the work is completed. Beyond safeguarding employee well-being, a robust program minimizes the impact on a company’s production, morale, and overall viability.
Employers should familiarize themselves with legislation related to machine guarding, safeguarding, and lockout. Conducting an inventory of machinery to identify potential contact points with operators and reviewing manufacturer’s guidelines for appropriate guarding measures are essential steps. Regular checks to ensure guards are intact and haven’t been removed are critical. In cases of newly added guarding measures, pre-start health and safety reviews may be necessary.
Effective lockout/tagout procedures encompass notification to all affected workers, machine equipment shutdown and isolation, application of lockout/tagout with assigned individual locks, verification of isolation, and controlled interruption for testing or repositioning before release from lockout/tagout. Compliance with these procedures is integral to maintaining a safe work environment.