Work Refusal

March 2016, We have noticed that the 37 most frequently used hoists in the plant have had their monthly inspections reduced to a quarterly inspection, every three months. These 37 hoists are used to load and unload the machining and assembly lines and many of you use them. These hoists operate for thousands of cycles and touch every block, head, crank, and assembled engine we produce. The company says that the sub-contractor hired by E.S.Fox claims they are not finding any issues during their monthly inspections and that there is a TIS for Team Leaders to follow for a daily inspection. Team Leaders are not trained hoist inspectors and the TIS is vaguely written, but the company is relying on this to keep you safe as you lift 84,000 V6 and 66,000 V8 engines between inspections. This is insane. For the sub-contractor to claim they are not finding any issues is also incredible. Familiar with the equipment, Edward Steers went out and inspected two hoists himself and did not have to look hard to find issues on both, and is working to have them addressed. The law states that lifting devices will be inspected at least annually, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation, which is monthly for the high use Gardner-Denver hoists used in HFV6. Up until recently they have always been inspected monthly. Last week, we met and expressed our concerns with the company and will continue until this is resolved. We want a proactive safety program that maintains our equipment so no one gets injured, not a complaint based safety program. If you feel the same way, ask your Group Leader to address this issue on the SPQRC board.

On Thursday February 11th, there was an incident on HFV6 Mod 1 Crank where a vendor was caught working by himself inside a live electrical panel without proper PPE and without locking out the panel. George Moses, our current Alternate Health and Safety Representative spotted the individual head and shoulders inside the live panel wearing a golf shirt, in violation of ESPW and GM safely policy. The individual was escorted from the plant before he injured himself. This incident highlights our shortage of electricians needed for engineering support, and engineering’s frustration, being unable to have our electricians who know the equipment to assist with project work and upgrades. No one should be placing themselves in jeopardy because of manpower shortages. If you see anyone working in a live electrical panel without dark blue flash proof clothing, ask them where their electrician is, or contact us to investigate.

On Dec.3, 2015 three employees were involved in a work refusal in GF6 Prismatics machining that involved the Ministry of Labour and George Moses. In Prismatics, some machines were reprogrammed to allow a parallel process, the same operation side by side, and if one machine went down the machine gantry could continue to load the other machine while the employees are working inside the down machine. The machines were never designed for this, the way Gen V machines are and overhead door lock-outs had to be fabricated using eyebolts welded to sheet metal. The employees felt unsafe working inside the machine to perform a part seat check with this jerry rigged door lock-out, and they didn’t trust that program changes wouldn’t send the gantry in to pick up a part, piercing the overhead door while they were inside.

The Ministry of Labour investigator concluded that the overhead door locking system was designed and certified by an engineer to adequately keep the doors closed, and that there are 3 layers of safety controls wired into the gantry system. In the unlikely event that gantry loading motion does occur, there is torque overload and gantry monitoring that would stop the loading motion of the gantry. They encouraged the value of the torque over limit be discussed with the workers to ensure the value is set at a limit that will not cause the gantry to pierce the overhead cover, then ordered the workers back to work, ending the work refusal.

The members still feel uneasy being asked to blindly put their trust in technology to ensure their safety. There have been instances where gantries have crashed into overhead doors causing significant damage in HFV6 Crank, for various reasons including forced action commands that were left behind after a breakdown. To further add to the member’s unease, a month after their initial work refusal, a gantry crashed on Torque line 2 when it failed to pick a part from a machine, then loaded a part on top of it causing significant damage to the end of arm tooling. Torque over limit causes a fault if the gantry meets resistance. An increase in resistance draws more current to overcome the resistance and when the torque over limit is reached the fault occurs stopping the gantry. Because the Ministry didn’t order the company to reduce the torque over limit, it seems Prismatic engineering feels they are under no obligation to comply and address the workers concerns.

George Moses has been able to convince Plant engineering of the value of lowering torque over limits on all machine gantry loaders throughout the plant, and has worked with engineering in Agile Block adjusting their gantries. Gen 5 gantries have also been adjusted, but Prismatics engineering have been very slow to implement this, having adjusted only 2 machines so far and have stopped, as often happens in that department due to a shortage of manpower or an issue appears that becomes a higher priority.

To adequately address our members concerns we are asking for three things, two of them as an extra, physical layer of protection;

  1. As encouraged by the Ministry of Labour, determine the torque over limit value that will not cause the gantry to pierce the overhead door, adjust the Prismatics gantries to this limit in the entire department and discuss this value and how it was determined with the workers.
  2. Have Electrician check torque over limit before going into a machine to ensure value has not changed.
  3. When asked to perform maintenance work inside a machine while a gantry is moving overhead, before powering down, have a machine operator perform a test of the overhead door euchner switch circuit to see if the gantry responds to a part call if doors are in the locked position.

This issue is still being discussed, and we will report the outcome in our next report.