It’s always so refreshing when we get both sides of the story. Two weeks ago we posted an article sourced from Global News that L&M Wood Products (2011) Ltd. had been fined more than $45,000 after a worker of theirs was seriously injured on the job. We outlined the fines and what OH&S Regulation they were fined under and then proceeded to highlight the importance of Hazard ID and control in the workplace to possibly prevent these types of accidents.
Early last week I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Trinda Delainey from L&M Wood Products. After speaking with her and hearing her views about the article and their side of the story of what occurred on that day, I felt it was prudent to post this follow up article. The following is a summary of what happened on the day their worker was injured as per our conversation:
The worker who was injured was a ‘chipper room operator’ and was working in the chipper room completing her duties. This operator was trained in Hazard Identification, Inspections and workplace hazards. The machine in question that caused the injury was a “fines interlock blower”. The machine itself doesn’t require cleaning and is fully enclosed (looking like a furnace with venting) but the area around it is dusty with wood debris including sawdust and chips. This machine had factory installed guards extending around the moving parts. The only area the guards weren’t around was the part that was open against a vent which has limited access. It is unsure what led up to the event but somehow the worker got her arm in around the guarding. The worker was seriously injured but fortunately was able to return to work within 4 months.
The day before the accident a hazard identification inspection was completed on this piece of equipment. The weeks and months before the accident, several inspections of the work area were completed by the employee and Manager, the OHC, the maintenance staff doing a guarding inspection and external contractors who were assisting L&M in upgrading their Safety Program and guarding. There was a site wide risk matrix done and this area was not in the top 10 for potential dangers. This doesn’t mean everywhere else was very dangerous, it just means that this area had a hidden danger that wasn’t apparent even to trained personnel. Since 2012 L&M Wood Products had been working hard in bolstering their Safety Management System and making huge improvements to their safety programs. They are COR certified and have been working with SASM and OH&S extensively to beef up their programming. They felt they were covered and had, as Trinda put it, a “false sense of security”. During the investigation by OH&S following the incident, it was found that the machine was older and a new machine would have guards completely around any moving part. OH&S said that even though there were guards on this machine there were exposed areas that obviously caused harm. There has never been a clear understanding how the employee ended up behind the guards. Therefore, OH&S Regulation 137(1)(a) is where they were issued a fine under. This is something that is common when machines are older; they at one time may have been compliant but with new regulations they become noncompliant. Even though this machine seemed to be completely guarded as per the factory installed guards, somehow the worker was able to have her arm slip in bypassing the guards. Instead of taking this as a negative experience, L&M Wood Products has chosen to take the high road and learn from this incident. They have intensified their workplace hazard assessments and included ‘out of the box’ thinking when anticipating potential hazards and putting controls in place.
The main message I received from Trinda was that she wanted everyone to learn from this in the business community. Even though you may think you have a great Safety Management System in place and have every angle covered it’s important to not fall into that ‘false sense of security’. Safety Management Systems are important but the critical portion is the constant maintenance and improvement of that system. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when looking at potential hazards and always be looking for new and improved ways to put controls in place.