Manufacturer of Hydraulic Presses

An Overview of Canadian and U.S. Safety Regulations

June 17, 2015

Machine shops are dangerous places if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why both Canada and the U.S. have a number of regulations that deal with safety in this environment.

The laws vary in each country, province, state and territory. Here is a look at where you can find out the rules that apply to your shop. To design your own safety program, with the aim to both stay in compliance and to keep workers safe, there are links to the programs in effect at several machine shops, plus a forum to get more information.

Who Covers What

It can be complicated tracking all the rules. Canada, for example, has 14 jurisdictions: the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at the federal level, plus 10 provincial and 3 territorial. The U.S. has the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which governs an array of rules in 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

This means that both federal governments set minimum standards that provinces, territories and states must meet.

Because there are so many jurisdictions, you need to check the precise rules in effect for your specific location. You can get these by checking with your province, state or territory health and safety agency. Look for more information at these links:

Tracking Down Specific Safety Rules

The situation is further complicated by the fact that a wide range of rules cover machine shop safety, in several categories.

To get an idea, check out this letter, a reply from OSHA to a machine shop owner, in response to his simple inquiry about regulations in effect. Though this deals with a U.S. machine shop, the situation for regulations is very similar in Canada.

This website takes a general look at machine shop requirements in effect in Canada. The not-for-profit Manufacturers’ Health & Safety Association, or MHSA, offers safety education and a wide range of courses.

There are lots of rules, but the health and safety agency in your locale can tell you what they are. Then it is your responsibility to follow the specific laws in effect.

Machine Shop Safety Best Practices

Over time and with experience, machine shops have come up with a set of best practices. These vary from area to area and shop to shop. Here is a general look at what they cover.

The University of Vermont has a handy overview for its own machine shop. There are numerous links and tabs that deal with specific areas of concern. Basically, safety practices come under the headings of:

  • identifying and controlling hazards
  • documenting safety problems, solutions and routines
  • training and informing personnel
  • preparing for emergencies

The University of Toronto also has published guideline for its machine shop, making it an excellent reference if you are figuring out your own safety program., dealing with small shop concerns, covers general shop safety in this page. The categories include protection for eyes, noise and feet, as well as proper procedures for handling fumes, lifting, electrical equipment and safety rules for machine tools.

If you want a quick checklist of what to watch out for, Ohio Wesleyan University offers this one. For a comprehensive safety program, check out the University of California at Riverside College of Engineering Machine Shop Safety & Basic User Guide.

If you want to get feedback on your safety program, the forum at Practical Machinist lets you ask questions and trade information. It also has a blog, articles and videos on a wide range of topics.

It’s your responsibility as a worker in or owner of a machine shop to keep the area safe and in compliance with the law. But you’re not alone. The links above provide resources for putting together an effective safety plan.