Curbing Industrial Accidents

To improve safety, WSIB targets companies with the greater risk of experiencing high injury rates, more costly injuries or both.

BY: SIMON FRIDLYAND

I f you don't think accidents cost your company or the economy too much, take a look at these figures. First off, in 2006 alone, there were 336,851 claims for Ontario's Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits in all sectors, resulting from injuries and accidents in the workplace.

The direct cost to the WSIB of each lost-time injury (LTI) in 2007 was $21,300, on average. The indirect cost of each lost-time injury in 2007, including re-hiring, re-training, lost productivity, etc., was $85,200.

The direct cost of all LTIs in the province in 2005 was $1.6 billion, and workplace injuries cost Ontario's economy $12 billion for the year. The result is that the WSIB had an excess of expenses over revenue of $1,142 million, according to its 2006 annual report.

These statistics speak for themselves. It is unacceptable that people who work in our factories, forestry, mines and construction sites one day may go to work and never come back or get permanently or temporarily injured on the job. Being killed or injured on a job is not in any job description one may find. However, last year in Ontario alone there were 101 fatalities.

Since WSIB is a division of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the Ministry has an aggressive enforcement plan. Here are some enforcement statistics:

• In 2006/2007 there were 91,000 field visits by Ministry officials and they resulted in 175,000 orders to comply.

• To improve its enforcement role, in 2004, the MOL committed to hiring an additional 200 inspectors (there were approximately 230 inspectors on staff at the time), many to be focused exclusively on the intervention strategy.

• By April 2007, all 200 new inspectors were trained and in the field, supplementing the existing 230 already conducting inspections.

The Ministry of Labour's intervention strategy focuses on Ontario firms that are most at risk of experiencing high injury rates and costs. These firms have injury rates that are above the average for their peers in the same industry sector.

The strategy is targeted at improving workplace health and safety practices through education, training and enforcement of provincial legislation and regulations. The goals? Facilities shall be compliant to the current and applicable codes and standards, and evidence of education and training on how to operate safe and compliant equipment shall be in place.

The Ministry of Labour analyzes data on workplace injuries as reported each year by employers in the provincial WSIB. The analysis identifies the firms are at a greater risk of experiencing high injury rates, more costly injuries or both.

About 30,000 firms have been identified. These businesses represent only 10% of firms insured through WSIB -- but they account for 40% of all injuries and claims costs incurred. Of those, 6,000 are considered high-risk. A number of high-risk firms from the 6,000 can have up to four mandatory inspections a year by MOL staff.

The 24,000 next-highest-ranked at-risk firms are identified as priority firms. Some of them are selected to receive one mandatory Ministry of Labour inspection each year.

Targeted companies are told by an inspector during his/her first field visit that they have been selected. Firms also receive an introductory letter explaining the intervention strategy and that the workplace has been identified as being at risk of experiencing high injury rates, more costly injuries or both.

Once an order is issued, it also stipulates a completion date. The inspectors are not giving generous time schedules to comply, because the possibility that an accident may happen is very high.

Maintenance spearheads the process

The firms must upgrade/retrofit or improve the safety of their equipment within a very tight time frame. Maintenance people are usually the ones who spearhead this process. It is very important to understand that if the upgrades are done in a rush, without consultation with operations, engineering and production people, the efficiency of the equipment may be jeopardized.

It is prudent to think ahead and get a professional organization involved to audit the facility before the inspector calls, in order to identify the deficiencies as far as compliance is concerned. They must design the necessary upgrades, keeping the issues of productivity in mind, and create a tender package that includes a set of drawings and a bill of materials, so that the best prices can be obtained from the contractors and parts suppliers.

At the end of the process, a Pre- Start Health and Safety Review (PSR) is to be issued from that professional organization. The report shall have no disclaimers and the Professional Engineer must be able to accept the liability associated with this process.

With this scenario, you -- not the Ministry of Labour -- will be in control of your facility. The upgraded equipment will be safe or compliant and also productive. Now you can provide the necessary education and training for your workers on how to safely operate and maintain your safe/compliant equipment.

Just a little planning ahead will eliminate a lot of difficult situations. Maintenance managers are well aware of the benefits of preventive maintenance programs. This situation is not different.

Simon Fridlyand, P. Eng., is president of S. A. F. E. Engineering Inc., a Toronto-based company specializing in industrial health and safety issues and PSR compliance. For more information, visit the website at www.safeengineering.ca.

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