The current requirements for pre-start health and safety reviews (PSHSRs) came into effect on October 7, 2000. PSHSRs or PSRs as they are commonly called, are written professional reviews of equipment and process safety and a legal requirement in Ontario.

The PSR requirements are found under section 7 of Ontario’s Regulation for Industrial Establishments. The intent of a PSR is to identify specific hazards pertaining to the installation or modification of equipment or processes with respect to safeguarding devices or interlocks, flammable liquids or explosive dusts, lifting or hoisting equipment, racking or stacking structures, toxic substances, the production of aluminum or steel, or the handling of molten metal. The requirement to complete a PSR as prescribed in the Regulation is in addition to the general requirement for employers to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Though complex and technical, the objective is straightforward: to prevent injuries through the identification of hazards, and the implementation of appropriate control measures before start-up and, ideally, at the design phase. The responsibility to determine whether a PSR is required, and to ensure one is completed, falls on owners, lessees or employers.

The Triggers

There are four main triggers to consider when determining if a PSR is required:

  • Is the workplace governed by Ontario’s OHSA?
  • Is the workplace an industrial establishment?
  • Does the workplace meet the definition of ‘factory’ as defined in the OHSA?
  • Does the criteria established by section 7 apply?

If you’ve checked all four boxes, your workplace may require a PSR by law, if you are installing or modifying an apparatus, structure, protective element or process.

In most cases, a PSR must be completed by a professional engineer. However, the legislation allows for review by a “knowledgeable person” where it involves a process that uses or produces toxic substances that may result in exposure above occupational exposure limits.

The Report

Although the legislation does not specify any format or template for a PSR report, section 7 dictates that the written report should contain, at minimum, the following:

  • Details of measures taken to bring the item into compliance
  • Date and signature of the person performing the PSHSR
  • If a professional engineer (P.Eng) performed the PSHSR, his or her seal
  • If the person performing the PSHSR is not a P.Eng, details of his or her special expertise, knowledge or qualifications.

The report, along with any supporting documents, must be readily accessible in the workplace, for as long as the item remains in the workplace. Further, the key players must know where to find the report, and be able to retrieve it readily.

  • In addition, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) must be provided with the PSR report before the equipment or process is operated or used, and must be provided with any exemption documents upon request. Further, the JHSC must be given written notice of any alternative measures to be taken, if the measures identified for compliance on the PSR are not implemented.

Documents provided to the JHSC or the health and safety representative are for information and review purposes only. The item may be put into operation or used once the PSR report has been provided to the JHSC or the health and safety representative. We recommend creating a stamp that includes the date and a space for a JHSC member signature, confirming receipt of the PSR for review. This will help facilitate an efficient internal PSR audit and provide proof for due diligence purposes.

Effective management of PSRs is critical. Recommendations for effectively managing these reviews include providing courses on the subject matter to key players involved in workplace health and safety, and development of a PSR procedure that includes, at a minimum, annual internal audits to ensure compliance with section 7. Individuals who should receive PSR training include personnel from production, engineering, maintenance, health and safety and even accounting and/or purchasing.

Failure to complete PSRs when required may result in enforcement by the Ministry of Labour by way of compliance and/or stop work orders and/or prosecutions. A conviction under the OHSA carries a maximum penalty of $25,000 and/or a 12-month imprisonment for individuals, and a maximum penalty of $500,000 per offence for corporations. In addition, directors, officers, and/or corporations may be charged under the Criminal Code.