OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) was a movie created to satisfy the audacious taste of people in all categories of age. It presented a story with fun packed action and comedy that perpetuated the notion of friendship, determination, faith, strength and most importantly, the love of family.

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Though highly entertaining, as University students of an Occupational, Health and Safety course, it is important to investigate the movie and identify the possible violations that the businesses and firms within the movie may have committed. This scrutiny is necessary in order to focus on recognizing the importance of Health and Safety in real life situations and also to notice the relative nature that some of these acts may have to companies existing in the world today and even this country, in addition to insisting the need to stop it.

The movie is centered on an experiment carried out by a large corporation in New York City called ‘Sacks’, which was responsible for Research and Development into medicinal advancements through improved technology. Years ago, Doctor O’Neil and his partner, Eric Sacks (President of the Sacks Company), conducted research into creating a mutagen that would be able to cure a variety of diseases and ailments through cellular growth.  This mutagen was made to allow for self-repair of human cells in times of apparent damage as well as mutative growth and development. It was destined to save a number of people’s lives in times of hurt. A rat called ‘Splinter’ and four turtles named after four famous artists in history, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello, we the test subjects for the mutagen experiment named, “Project Renaissance”. The animals were injected with the mutagen in hope to accomplish their goals of growth and mutation.  However, as the project progressed, Doctor O’Neil discovered the true intentions of his friend, Doctor Eric Sacks. Dr. Sacks was alleged to be working alongside a man named ‘Shredder’, who was the leader of a Japanese terrorist group known as the ‘Foot Clan’. Their main purpose was to take over the city and control the Government. Dr. Sacks hoped to release a toxic gas upon the city’s population that would cause widespread death and disease. In turn, he would advertise to the Government the antidote that would have been formed from the mutagen, which would ultimately cure the masses, provide no alternatives to the vulnerabilities of the Leaders of the land and in turn make himself and his allies very rich. On discovering the malicious plan of his co-worker however, Dr. O’Neil decided to burn down the laboratory with all the related information and technology about the mutagen in hope of saving the city. Dr. O’Neil, unfortunately, was not exactly successful at the expense of his life. His little daughter managed to rescue the rat and turtles in the fire that all had the mutagen within their bloodstream.

Years later, on discovering the existence and survival of the turtles, Dr. Sacks sought to revisit his tactics for city domination. The turtles and rat were however now grown into tall, human-like structures that were strong and skilled in the art of ninjutsu, thereby becoming Ninja Turtles. Their interest was in protecting the city and bringing down the Sacks and Foot Clan. Grown up daughter of Dr. O’Neil, April O’Neil, in hope to seek justice for her fallen father, worked alongside the Ninja Turtles in order to prevent Dr. Sack’s attack. That is exactly what they courageously did and they were able to defeat the clan through a variety of battles and conquests and consequently saving the city from the outbreak that was eminent.

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Now as we evaluate the movie, we look at the OSHA Act violations. Getting caught up in the whimsy of crime- fighting, super turtles can easily blind you to the endless list of health and safety issues evident in the film’s plot. First, let us discuss the premise of the movie itself. The turtles and their rat sensei were transformed by a mutagen initially created for cellular regeneration (0:36:08). How did they come into contact with this mysterious toxin? Doctors O’Neil and Fenwick experimented on these innocent animals. Animal testing, especially where toxic substances are involved, is both inhumane and unethical. If you look closely at (0:25:00), you will see that the scientist are working without safety gloves and glasses. The negative repercussions for the test subjects involved are endless, not to mention fatal in most cases.

*For more information on proper animal testing protocol feel free to visit Princeton University’s ‘Health and Safety for Animal Workers’ guidelines:http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/biosafety/animalworker/intro.htm

The movie’s main company of interest was the Sacks Research and Experimental Facility, run by the seemingly conniving Eric Sacks. His company committed dangerous acts not just to its employees but to its supposed customers, general public and environment.                                                                                         Firstly, S6 3 (a) of the act states that employers ought to, “Provide information (right to know) about hazardous chemicals”. It is clear that Sacks had his own agenda with regards to the operations of the business. In a particular scene in the movie, it was noticed that the employees were shocked and terrified in finding out about the chemicals being used as well as the intent to which they would be used. In the movie, he forced an employee to breathe in the toxin gas to which he fatally died soon after. It was done as a means of exemplifying the effect of the gas as well as instilling fear and compliance in the other employees. This is the mark of sadistic and evil employer who had no respect for human life nor the safety of his employees.

As an employer, he took profit making to an extreme level where the process seemed too much. The fact that he had hoped to unleash the chemical within the company’s building, put at risk the lives of the surrounding employees, the wider community and by extension the entire human resource. This by far could be the worst violation of Health and Safety ever. According to S9, employers are supposed to ensure the, “Protection of Safety and Health of the public”. He clearly disregarded this rule. The Provision and maintenance of a safe workplace and working environment was also an unmet rule as the company was lined with weapon holding Japanese terrorists as well as the obvious risk of dying from a deadly toxic gas at large.

One can go as far as to say that the employees within the laboratory violated the act as well. S10 (1) (a) states that employees are to, “Take reasonable care for safety and health of self and others”. They were responsible for informing local authorities on the looming threat as well as find methods to safeguarding their own lives in any way possible and that of their co-worker or friend as well in the business.

Lastly, the entire welfare of the company’s personnel and the city’s citizens was continuously threatened as the mission for human destruction carried out by Dr. Sacks. Therefore, he violated the law to value and act in the interest of the individual’s safety and health. In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory, he speaks of a human being’s need to feel safe. From elements in society, to the environmental conditions of their home and workplace. They do not want to feel vulnerable for their lives or demotivated from working as it would be encouraging illegal activity. Once these circumstances exist, the employee would not perform well and productivity would be affected as a result. Imagine having ‘#1 Drain Avenue, Sewerville, New York’ as your permanent living address. There are many things incredibly wrong with living in a sewer. Exposure to such high volumes of faecal matter is classified by the MSD chart as a health risk. The mutant family slept, played, trained and ate in the sewer. Their underground culinary experience consisted solely of pizza delivered to them by their adopted rat father and sensei. For one thing, a strict pizza diet can cause a multitude of health risks such as clogged arteries, hypertension and heart failure. Furthermore a rat, a creature known to carry rabies and whose urinate can bring about leptospirosis, is not the best animal to be handling your food.

Fun Fact: The mutants were somewhat safety savvy. (0:57:35) reveals that the family kept a first aid kit in their home.

Throughout the film’s many fight scenes, we can see various sharp weapons and explosives used by both heroes and enemies alike. Just like the scientists, adequate safety wear and armour were not used by almost all of the characters. The only person sufficiently dressed was the antagonist, Shredder, who sported a full body metal suit. As battles waged on, explosives were thrown and fired wildly. This is an extreme safety hazard. We saw explosives used in enclosed caverns at (0:48:40) and (0:55:00) which can cause caves to collapse as well as produce sounds loud enough to puncture ear drums. Gunshots were fired in at laboratory at (0:79:39). Not only were the chemicals in that laboratory exposed, but they were also flammable (Pay close attention to the background in order to see the ‘Flammable’ sign). A misguided bullet could have easily triggered an explosion.

But what was the real purpose of the movie? Why was the mutagen created in the first place? It was all for world domination. Shredder planned to release a lethal toxin across New York City, one for which only he had the cure. He planned on using the antidote, found only in the mutant turtles’ blood, to control the city and later the world. Shortly after he had drained almost all of their blood, April O’Neil attempted to set them free by issuing an overdose of adrenaline (0:65:29). Handling and dispensing uncontrolled amounts of this drug can typically result in a rapid onset of agitation, hypertension, tachycardia, and dysrhythmias.

The final battle scene took place on the rooftop from which the poisonous gas was to be released. Can you see the grievous health risk in dispelling a mass over toxin over a city? The ninja turtles charged Shredder head on in an attempt to foil his malicious plans. The rooftop itself had no railings. This is a cause for concern because someone can easily stumble and fall off the building, as the turtles did. During the fight, shards of metal, glass and other debris fell on innocent bystanders below. The threat here is all too obvious. Observe (0:78:44) closely and you can see civilians being slashed and crushed by falling matter. In the movie,it reminded us that, “nothing is as strong as family…..you must fight together as a family”. People should adopt this manner of thinking where caring for humanity is resilient and human lives are valued and revered, especially in the workplace. Once employees are happy, the business would feel its benefits through profits and high productivity and thus by extension the entire world as it grows and is secured with a brighter future.

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