OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

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bbhMen of Honor is a 2000 drama film, starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film was inspired by the true story of Master chief petty officer Carl Brashear, the first African American master diver in the United States Navy. The MLSS team looked at a short excerpt form the movie and identified some issues as it related to various Health hazards in the work place. In this case the work place was the U.S Navy base located on a ship.


SAFETY HAZARDS: These are hazards range from simple spills on the floor to electrical or machine-related hazards. These are most common in the workplace and can subsequently lead to serious injury or even death. In the movie “Men of Honor”, we have identified several safety hazards.

  • In several of the scenes, there were ropes and cables running across the floor. This presented a tripping hazard. Sometimes the deck was also wet and this presented a slipping hazard which could lead to serious physical injury.
  • In one scene there was a frayed cord which caused an electrical spark. This culminated into a series of chain reactions where a rope became loose and a metal went flying which struck one of the characters Carl. Which resulted in him losing his leg. This therefore resulted in a physical hazard.


  • These hazards materialize into stressors which are short term and strain which can cause longer term effects. This can vary from the workload to lack of control and respect. In the movie “Man of Honor”, we have identified some scenarios which can fall under this category.
  • Intensity and/or pace- Throughout the movie, the men were yelled at and endured intense training. This can result in both a physical and emotional strain.
  • The captain yelled at the men and also hurled insults at them. This aspect of working conditions can prove to be a menace and also add to a stressful working environment.
  • The navy men work in an intense environment and do a lot of strenuous activity. The responsibility alone of being a navy man adds to the work organization hazard.


When looking at the excerpt you can notice that the character Carl as well as his co workers were not wearing proper safety gears. This should have been done since they were handling heavy equipment and machinery.

  1. Protective Clothing: Protective clothing is a coverall which protects the body of the crew member from hazardous substance like hot oil, water, welding spark etc. It is popularly known as “dangri “or “boiler suit”.
  2. Helmet: The most important part of the human body is the head. It needs utmost protection which is provided by a hard plastic helmet on the ship. A chin strap is also provided with the helmet which keeps the helmet on place when there is a trip or fall.
  3. Safety Shoes: Maximum of the internal space of the ship is utilized by cargo and machinery, which is made of hard metal and which make it clumsy for crew to walk around. Safety shoes ensure that nothing happens to the crew member’s feet while working or walking onboard.
  4. Safety Hand gloves: Different types of hand gloves are provided onboard ship. All these are used in operations wherein it becomes imperative to protect ones hands.  Some of the gloves provided are heat resistant gloves to work on hot surface, cotton gloves for normal operation, welding gloves, chemical gloves etc.
  5. Goggles: Eyes are the most sensitive part of the human body and in daily operations on ship chances are very high for having an eye injury. Protective glass or goggles are used for eye protection, whereas welding goggles are used for welding operation which protects the eyes from high intensity spark.
  6. Ear Muff/plug: Engine room of the ship produces 110-120 db of sound which is very high for human ears. Even few minutes of exposure can lead to head ache, irritation and sometimes partial or full hearing loss. An ear muff or ear plug is used on board ship which dampens the noise to a bearable decibel value.
  7. Safety harness: Routine ship operation includes maintenance and painting of high and elevated surfaces which require crew members to reach areas that are not easily accessible. To avoid a fall from such heightened area, safety harness is used. Safety harness is donned by the operator at one end and tied at a strong point on the other end.
  8. Face mask: Working on insulation surface, painting or carbon cleaning involves minor hazardous particles which are harmful for human body if inhaled directly. To avoid this, face mask are provided which acts as shield from hazardous particle.
  9. Chemical suit: Use of chemicals onboard ship is very frequent and some chemicals are very dangerous when they come in direct contact with human skin. A chemical suit is worn to avoid such situations.
  10. Welding shield: Welding is a very common operation onboard ship for structural repairs. A welder is provided with welding shield or mask which protects the eyes from coming in direct contact with ultraviolet rays of the spark of the weld.






Safety and security, though interrelated, are two different subjects that are often ignored until a crisis occurs. At this point, it might be too late as persons may fall prey to robbery, rape, assault, sickness or even death. Since the occurrence of the hallmark terrorism act of September 11th, 2001 on the World Trade Centre, there has been a heightened awareness of safety and security. Security is a broad topic, and covers a range of areas such as company assets, the property itself, employees’ and customers’ personal belongings and valuables, life, personal and job security (Belilos, 2001). For the purpose of this blog, self or personal security in the workplace will be discussed.

Since the bombing of the towers in New York, the presence of increased security was quite evident in many countries. The impact of the loss of thousands of lives not only caused governments from many countries to implement new and tighten existing measures, but management from organizations also responded. This however was not transcended in the Caribbean, more specifically our twin island republic, Trinidad & Tobago. Many businesses in this country are guilty of not taking responsibility for employees’ and customers’ personal belongings and valuables. This is can be seen through disclaimers in car parks such as our very own UWI, and in more populated places like Trincity Mall and Movie Towne.  Employees and customers alike must feel a sense of protection while on the job site. This is necessary not only for improved efficiency and productivity, but for employees and customers to feel a sense of personal security and protection for their belongings and most importantly their lives. It is therefore left up to management to provide this sense of protection for their workers by ensuring that proper security measures and policies are implemented to avoid any possible loss of life or belongings.

Let us look at UWI, St. Augustine campus again. The presence of physical external crimes such as robberies and break-ins do occur as in the cases of students’ cars being stolen despite the presence of security on the campus. There have also been reported cases of rape of students by non- UWI members who had free access to the campus. What impact have these events had on the university? Well organizations who are not prepared to prevent such occurrences from happening suffer badly as some employees tend to leave and some customers carry there purchase elsewhere. In this case, the customers, us students, enrolled in other tertiary level institutions despite the reputability of UWI, which provided a safer environment to study.

 In response to these physical security hazards, a number of mitigation strategies have been identified. First and foremost is the employment and training of suitably qualified security personnel. Although there are security guards present, that does not necessarily mean that they are aligned with the objectives of the campus, i.e. the security of staff and students. Secondly, operational policies regarding the security of public areas need to be undertaken by management. Security officers should be strategically situated on the compound round the clock to ensure worker’s and students’ safety. In so doing, theft, vandalism or physical harm/ injury can be minimized as well as the presence of presence of “shady characters” and criminals. This can be aided by effective supervision and control procedures through the use of burglar alarms and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, in order to have proper coverage of all daily activities that occur on and off campus. Placement of barriers and a ticketing system for tracking and regulating the access of cars in and out of the compound should be implemented whereby any car entering the campus should receive a signed and dated slip from the security guard at that access point, which must be presented to the security guard upon exiting. Should management ignore these preventative measures, the organization runs the risk of being held accountable and further tarnishing the image of this prestigious university.

In looking at safety, we also use the university as our case study. It is the duty of management to ensure the safety of staff and students in areas such as the university’s structure, installations and fixtures such as electrical and air-conditioning, as well as public work areas such as classrooms, bathroom facilities and safety of furniture and equipment. To add to this, the safety from physical, chemical, electrical ergonomic, biological and psychological hazards are also of paramount importance. For physical hazards in the UWI setting we looked at slip, trip and fall, fire and natural disasters. For the latter which may present themselves unexpectedly, evacuation routes, alarms and sound drill and muster points must be in place. Workers and students both need to be assured that if such occurs, there are measures in place to ensure their safety while on campus. It is always best therefore for management to have proper guidelines for employees and students to follow for these types of events. Implementation of fire alarms and provision of proper fire extinguishing gear in vital areas that are easily accessible. Clearly labelled and easily identifiable evacuation routes to a muster point should be created and given awareness to new members and training through regular drills.


  • Belilos, Claire. “Safety and Security in the Workplace, CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services.” Safety and Security in the Workplace. 2001. Accessed October 20, 2015. http://www.easytraining.com/safety.htm.


“A Conversation on Safety. At the Tyre Shop.” An OSH Story


Image 1: Informal Conversation, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson DD: 17.10.2015

In Trinidad and Tobago we are often comfortable to wait on the “tyre repair man” to repair and or change your tyres. It is not really a ‘big deal’. It gives some of us some time to sit outdoors and engage in some ‘idle chit chat’, check our messages and emails, before we go on our merry way. On my last visit to a tyre shop in central Trinidad, I, had to do a tyre change of a flat tyre. I was asked to have a seat on a bench on the outside of my vehicle whilst the tyre repairman changed the tyre. While I waited, I took the opportunity to have an informal chat with two of the employees who were working outside.

One worker was noticeably clad in rubber slippers whilst he jacked up the vehicle. I looked at him and asked, “What about your personal protective equipment?”
“Wha is dat?” he replied.
“Safety equipment, steel toe boots, safety glasses, gloves?” I answered and smiled.
“Yea man we does get dat. We ha gloves an boots an everything.” The other responded, pointing at his feet that were sheathed in rubber gardening boots.
“Do you mind if I take some pictures of your equipment?” I asked.
“Go ahead nah.” was the response.
I took the photos, and then continued, “So, how often do you service your equipment?”
They both looked at each other.
“Three months”…
“Every year!”…
They both smiled. “You know nah, buh nobody does ever get damage here!” the first one exclaimed.

It was quite evident here that the workers at this shop were aware of wearing proper personal, protective equipment to prevent any physical hazards from happening. However, the behavioral attitudes of the employees, show that many unsafe workplace practices are still commonplace in our society.

Do you know that a moment of negligence can lead to us being damaged
or even lead to our death?

Take a moment to view this short video on risk assessment at a truck tyre shop by Michelin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxrruyGpMAA accessed18.10.2015

Physical hazards made simple

My group and I looked at this tyre shop, looking for evidence of awareness of OSH practices… or breaches. We found that most physical hazards present are mainly there because workers ‘simply’ created them. As seen in the photos below, working tools, unsecured and tangled hoses and even a tyre in the walkway presented many physical hazards.

20151019_110619_resizedAir tool and jack

Images 2 and 3: DD:Physical/ Mechanical Hazards, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015

At this small establishment, equipment seemed to be lying everywhere. This negligence could be the cause of slips, trips, bumps and falls. Equipment was not put away leading to cluttered conditions in work/ shop floor area. Debris and moisture/ wet spots were also visible. Employees as well as members of the public could be injured by the sharp edges of cutting tools. Although a jack is used, the equipment seemed to be very poorly maintained and there was evidence of rust, we questioned its reliability and safety. Equipment such as these are likely to subject the user to crush and pinch injuries should they fail. Workers need to be correctly trained how to protect hands and arms, when placing the tyres on the mold.

Mechanical hazards identified

According to Texas State University, mechanical hazards refer to moving machinery that can cause injury or death. At this tyre shop there were many machines with movable parts making the potential for death, dismemberment or disfigurement very high. Especially if they are altered or are poorly maintained. We found instances where safety cages were removed from their machines (See image 4) . In one instance, there was a rotating wheel that inserts into a metal ring into truck tyres under pressure there no safety guards in place. If the machine is started and the ring is improperly inserted the ring could become disengaged from the tyre and because of the force exerted on the ring and tyre. This in turn can hit an employee or members of the public that are seated on the bench or standing nearby causing serious damage even death. It was also noted that jacks and other lifting equipment were poorly maintained. There were large accumulations of oil, grease and dust on them that could cause these equipment to malfunction causing crush damage or dismemberment .


Image 4: Machine that has had its guard/cage removed & Image 5:Crush point hazard Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015


Image 6 Car Body Lift, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015 Continue reading

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OSH Procedures At U.S Battery.

OSH Procedures At


It can be agreed upon that the battery manufacturing process presents many potential hazardous conditions for individuals. Therefore it is of great importance that the correct proactive safety procedures be followed at all times in order to bring risks ALARP, (as low as reasonably possible). With that out of the way, the rest of this discussion shall be geared towards examining some of these procedures in which the company, U.S.Battery, has implemented under the various categories such as Manual handling / Lifting, Electricity, and Chemical. Now without further ado.

Manual handling at work


Manual Handling Operation Regulations of 1992 applies to a wide range of activities which includes lifting, lowering, pushing or carrying material.6 The load may either be animate, which refers to people, or inanimate, such as boxes or trolleys. When assessing a lifting operation, the following factors must be taken into consideration; the load weight, your hand distance from your lower back, vertical lifting regions, trunk twisting, postural constraint, grip on load, floor surface, environmental factors and other individual risk factors.
If manual handling is done incorrect it may cause numerous injuries to employees. Under the regulations employees are required to avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, assess the risk of injury from any hazardous handling and reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling as far as reasonably practicable. This would allow manual handling to be done safely.


With respect to U.S.Battery, it appears to have acknowledged these risks as their implementation of OSH procedures, such as the mandatory wearing of back-straps for example, coupled with the use of technology where possible, seeks to mitigate this risk as low as possible throughout the packaging and moving around process.

Additional safety procedures in place;

  1. The lifting method used when stacking the batteries on the pallet is demonstrated to workers beforehand. (Employing Education- one of the 3 E’s in safety)
    2. Pallet stacking technology
    3. Use of shrink wrapping machine – Using technology to assist with manual lifting
    4. Use of a pallet jack to move stacked batteries if forklift is not immediately available
    5. Floor surface are noted as being kept level as possible for efficient use of both equipment and to reduce the chance of a fall.


The battery manufacturing process involves the use of much electrical equipment, ranging from the lighting used for illuminating the work place, to the mechanical robots that are used test the charge of the batteries.  All of which present a potentially dangerous situation, however, emphasis should be placed on one process in particular, the charging process. This is where lines of batteries are laid down in what is also referred to as the charging room. To enable the rapid charging of these batteries, they are placed in a chiller or water bath, which keeps the batteries close to below freezing temperature. All in an effort to prevent the battery from overheating during the rapid charging process.
As a result, the employees working in direct relation to this process are obligated to;

1. Wear PPE such as gloves and safety boots/shoes that are shock proof and meet the industries standard of ISO 20345:2011, overalls to protect ones skin, and a respirator as the gasses emitted while charging are noted as being toxic.

  1. Ensure that the negative and positive clamps being connected to the battery terminals are not live.
  2. No employee is to touch or shift any charging clamps after the charging process has begun as it may result in serious injury or death. Often, a lockout-system is implemented on the machinery during the charging process, preventing individuals from being able to come in contact.

(It cannot be confirmed however whether or not U.S.Battery possesses this lockout-system on machinery as the information was not present / available)

It should be noted that failing to adhere to safe working practices can result in many man hours being lost through injury, and in extreme circumstances, death. Thus electrical hazards are one of the most dangerous and high risk hazards present.


Side Note;-

Aside from what is noted as being implemented in the company, there are a number of ways to prevent these electrical risks. Some of the ways which can protect employees that was not found under research are;
1. The supervisor of the designated charging area must be constantly walking around to ensure that safe practices are being observed
2. Employees must understand the level of danger and risk they expose themselves to when not observing safe work practices. (Education- one of the 3 E’s in safety)

  1. Having a trained safety officer that ensures that the supervisor of the charging room is as well adhering to the required safe working practices as well promoting safety.



In the process of battery manufacturing, some of the key elements have to be the use of Sulfuric Acid Electrolyte, composed of distilled water and pure sulfuric acid, along with leg composites, for the use of constructing the batteries’ cells. Thus when dealing with chemicals of this nature, a full area of PPE is mandatory for everyone involved in this process that may have a chance of exposure. Overall body suits, along with Nitrile Industrial gloves, facial shields and respirators are just a few of the protection requirements needed to prevent any chemicals coming in to contact with an employees, given the large number of ways in which chemicals can enter the body. (In other words; skin, eyes or respiratory track, genitalia, etc.)






Lifting Hazards

Reese C. Occupational Health and Safety Management. Hoboken: CRC Press; Pages 93,105 & 125.

Alli B. Fundamental Principles of Occupational Health and Safety. Washington: International Labour Office; 2008. Page 172.

Falling hazards

Reese C. Occupational Health and Safety Management. Hoboken: CRC Press; Pages 109 & 174.

Electrical hazards

Reese C. Occupational Health and Safety Management. Hoboken: CRC Press; Pages 94 & 172.


  • Pictures / screen shots/ manufacturing process –


  • Information about batteries –




  • Safety equipment –


  • S.Battery website / manufacturing process –




ArceloMittal: OSH Implementation Done Right

Photo 1With its main goal to become the safest company in the steel industry, ArcelorMittal Steel is one of the biggest steel companies in the world with over 320,000 employees in more than 60 countries. They are dedicated to making OSH a priority in their business as they aim to improve working conditions, reduce accident rates and execute scheduled programs of renovation and investment that will aid in enhancing OSH. The company is under constant supervision by an OSH Board consisting of trade union representatives and social labour inspectors from all branches. Unlike many other companies, each steel plant is equipped with its own OSH service managed by the main OSH specialist. The main duty of each employee is to comply with the health and safety regulations implemented by the OSH Board.

Statistical analysis has revealed a decrease in the number of work accidents at the ArcelorMittal steel plant with only minor accidents being involved. Therefore, it is safe to say that this company has achieved its aim by implementing OSH regulations and lowering its number of work related accidents.

Elements of ArceloMittal’s Safety Policy

At Arcelormittal there are four key areas that ensure that OSH is being implemented in the company. These include health and safety, human rights, ethics, and environmental stewardship.

Firstly, in order for proper health and safety, ArcelorMittal must first identify, evaluate and eliminate health and safety risks. This means distinguishing the potential hazards that can occur, evaluating who might be harmed and maturing mitigating actions and regularly receiving assessments made. In addition to this, giving effective training is another measure used to ensure good health which entails providing clear instructions and adequate information for proper training of their employees. Effective training also means educating workers in terms of hazards and risks that they may face and how to follow emergency protocols. Investigating all incidents and near hits prevents future recurrences as this basically means learning from previous mistakes.  Moreover, ArcelorMittal also establishes an effective process for preventing injuries and work related sicknesses which involve building on health and safety risk assessment and health and safety management systems. An example includes providing workers with proper work equipment, and also by carrying out annual employee health checkups.

Secondly, Human right is another key way in which ArcelorMittal implements OSH. This involves promoting freedom of association which entails respecting the rights of employees to organize groups or trade unions to ensure their rights. It also entails eliminating unlawful discrimination in the workplace by expressing equality among the workforce regardless of age, sex, race, gender, religion or disabilities. Furthermore, human rights involve eradicating harassment and violence by ensuring that workers do not encounter and engage in verbal and physical abuse or any kind of behavior that contributes to an uncomfortable workplace. In so doing they have dealt with the violence factor of Biological hazards which long remains as a problem in the modern workplace.

Thirdly ethics is another key measure used to implement OSH. This involves ensuring clear governance and monitoring of internal controls by means of eliminating corruption and addressing potential conflict. Ethics also entails providing effective training. Additionally, demonstrating accountability is another element under ethics which includes having active leadership which encourages ethical practices.

Finally, environmental stewardship is the fourth element used by ArcelorMittal to implement OSH. This is achieved by reducing CO2 emissions as far as possible by eight percent (8%). This will be met by a combination of process improvements and actions to increase energy efficiency and make efficient use of our natural resources, energy and land.

Have They Truly Implemented Occupational Safety and Health?

An example of these OSH regulations in action can be witnessed in the image below where we are introduced to an employee of the ArcelorMittal Steel plant seemingly welding a piece of steel.


                                                                                      Photo 2

Based on the above image, it is evident that ArcelorMittal values the safety and health of their employees. They have implemented some of the best OSH standards and practices for their employees to avert risk as much as possible.

In the picture, the welder is seen wearing a welder’s jacket. This is the first line of defense for his torso against the welding sparks. ArcelorMittal are within the guidelines stipulated in the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago as amended in 2006 since they are providing their employee with the necessary protective gear that he needs to be safe on the job. The bright colour of the jacket allows him to be highly visible in the industrial worksite to other workers, a very important thing in the realm of safety in any industry. By wearing the jacket, which has a collar that shields his neck, his torso is very well protected from the hazardous burns of sparks which can pitch in his direction and land on his skin from the welding process. If he was not wearing the jacket, he would have put himself in the way of potentially moderate burns around his neck and his forearms due to working at such close proximity.

The welder is also wearing welding gloves which extend midway up his forearms. This is his second line of defense against the sparks emitted during welding. In this welding scenario, the likelihood of the torch contacting the welder’s forearm is very likely. It also presents severe danger to his safety. If the torch accidentally makes contact with the gloves, the gloves will protect his hands, wrists and forearms from third degree burns. Welding in itself presents a fire hazard in that if the torch were to make contact with the wrong material, it can catch on fire. Just imagine what a professional grade welding torch such as the one pictured can do to your skin. It’s not a very nice thought is it? His use of gloves is a perfect implementation of Personal Protection Equipment. Props to ArcelorMittal for caring about their employee!

Let’s not forget that certain types of welding also pose an electrical hazard since various types of welding requires the use of an electrical arc. The gloves further protect him from electrocution by electrode in the event that the electrode ever contacts his gloves while using an arc welder. Also, welding presents a secondary shock electrical hazard and by wearing gloves, the welder is properly well insulated and has isolated the risk of experiencing a secondary shock which can be life threatening with as little as twenty volts.

Not to mention that if he should touch a metal structure immediately after welding, he would not risk burning his skin on his hands which is another benefit of having the heat resistant, welding gloves.

Sadly, even the greatest attempts to implement OSH correctly are flawed. The welder’s face is uncovered and this screams unsafe. As noted above, sparks pitch everywhere from welding. Should a spark land on his face, not only will it burn his skin but it can result in itching and long term inflammation. A lot of new welders often complain about redness on their skin or the burning sensation on their faces but they never ask themselves, “what can I do to prevent this?” As stylish as the photo is, we can see the welder was given a pair of very trendy welding glasses but these only protected his eyes leaving his face and ears wide open for sparks. The welder should have been given a full face welding mask to completely avert any risk of sparks flying into his face and ears. Further, a glimpse of his hair is caught in the photo. Based on a document by the American Welding Society(2014), welders should wear a fire-resistant cap to protect their head and hair from the radiation and sparks which result from welding. With a few pieces of equipment, ArceloMittal can effectively and quite simply mitigate and remove this risk, thereby lowering their future accident count.


Example of a 3M SpeedGlas Welding Helmet. It has auto darkening functionality and is a full face mask.

Another drawback is the posture of the welder. If his job requires him to stand all day long on his feet and maintain such a posture, he will suffer with major ergonomic problems later in his life. Ergonomic hazards occur in many forms and this is no exception. Since the welder’s body is bent over his workstation, he is at risk for lower back pain and muscle stiffening from long hours. He can also suffer from arthralgia leading to long term discomfort both during work and after work.

Based on the image illustrated above, we can see that ArceloMittal makes a great effort to fulfill and achieve one of its major objectives to be one of the safest companies in its industry. We have seen how much they value Occupational Health and Safety with regards to providing workers with proper Personal Protection Equipment in situations where the risk cannot be averted entirely and we must commend them for doing so. However, we also assessed where there were short comings with their practices and with a few simple remedies, ArceloMittal can totally achieve its objective of corresponding with Occupational Safety and Health in all its totality.


Secondary Shock Information: http://www.lincolnelectric.com/en-us/support/welding-solutions/Pages/Five-potential-welding-safety-hazards.aspx

Safety & Health Fact Sheet #33: http://www.aws.org/library/doclib/fs33-201404.pdf

Arcelomittal Case Study: https://www.google.tt/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CBsQFjAAahUKEwjIjcOd6c_IAhUJKx4KHU9NB9I&url=https%3A%2F%2Fosha.europa.eu%2Fdata%2Fcase-studies%2Fbecause-we-are-not-as-strong-as-our-products%2Farcelormittal.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHw9ezUaprNnvVArwORy_7ocMvuHA

Photo 1: http://cdn9.wn.com/ph/img/2f/d0/512777d04e1fc449eae6886be047-grande.jpg

Photo 2: http://corporate.arcelormittal.com/~/media/Images/A/ArcelorMittal/Images/storyhub/contentbanner/AcelorMittal-089-213.jpg?h=214&la=en&w=785

Photo 3: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41bP7KuToNL._SL.jpg

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Home Alone 2: An OSH Diagnosis


Figure 2: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

We are all aware of one of our all-time favorite Christmas movie Home Alone 2. It’s definitely one for the books and it is a 1990’s classic that since its debut, we have all grown up with and love. It tells the story of a rather precarious 8 year old boy, Kevin McCallister, being left alone again by his family, but this time in the Big Apple. Once again Kevin is forced to defend himself from two foolish burglars; Harry and Marv otherwise known as, the “Sticky Bandits” who are bound for the Big Apple as well, plotting a huge holiday heist of robbing Toy Duncan’s Chest (toy store.) Kevin’s ready to welcome them with more battery of booby traps the bumbling bandits will never forget! Being one of our favorite comedic Christmas movies of all times we completely turned a blind eye to the health and safety hazards in the movie. Although the movie has its comedic charm, Marv and Harry encountered some pretty terrible incidents where in real life, those incidents would not be as hilarious. It’s amazing to think that this little boy has created these genius traps but it unquestionably brings into the lime-light, what type of hazards it really imposes on the “Sticky Bandits”. Let’s dive right into it, shall we? This risk assessment takes place in the “Reno Scene”.


Injury: Bricks to the head
Figure 3: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The fun begins when Kevin tosses a series of bricks off a six story building. A total number of 4 bricks all hits Marv square on his face. While this may all be amusingly funny, that the bad guys are getting duped by an 8 year old kid, there is undoubtable physical damage done here. This type of impact can cause major head and brain injury such as, cracked skull or severe concussions. They also suffered mild brain injuries at first which can cause headaches, memory problems, nausea and confusion. The scene unfolds with them splitting up to break in through the two entry points into the “Reno House”.

Injury: A bunch of wrenches to the head
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Harry attempts to enter the house through the back door after his failed attempt to swing into the open window with the use of a hanging fire escape. As he kicks open the door, he triggers a trap that releases a bag of wrenches on his head. This physical injury caused by the impact of these tools hitting him on his head, would have left him severely concussed. Also, when the sticky bandits gets hit by a huge iron bar on their head and faces would be extremely frightening to withstand. With a severe brain injury which Harry and Marv both encountered, in real life they may suffer life-changing and debilitating problems such as cerebral, behavioral, and physical disabilities. Brain damages can be to the point where people end up in a coma or a minimally responsive state and may remain dependent on the care of others for the rest of their lives.


1. Slip and Fall

Injury: Slipping on slippery surfaces
Figure 4: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

While attempting to break in through the back door, the stocky built burglar tries to launch himself into an open window by swinging on a hanging fire escape ladder. However, slathered in grease, Harry misses this additional risk apart from the risk of swinging the hanging ladder. He lands with a loud thud onto the ground. This falling hazard, where Harry slipped and fall, can causes a serious of physical pain, such as minor and major back injuries damage to his spinal cord and getting major neck pain

20 Century Fox

20 Century Fox

Essentially, another scene that presented a slip and trip incident was when Harry and Marv first chased Kevin out of Duncan’s Toy Chest (the toy store). Kevin, being the smart kid that he was, bought some pearl necklaces and dispersed the string of pearls on the wet sidewalk causing the sticky bandits to slip and fall on their backsides as he makes his escape. This hazard could’ve led to a sprained ankle or a broken limb for the least. It may lead to an injury to the ligaments or muscles in the back such as a strain. Also, a fracture or dislocation of the spine can cause a spinal cord injury and this can be a pretty tough pain to bear. Additionally, there was scene in the latter part of the movie when Kevin falls on ice. Most of the time, falling on ice can lead to a strain of some of the deep muscles in the back.

2. Step and Fall

Injury: Falling face first on concrete floor
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Marv, after making it through the front door, takes a step in unknown that there is a gaping hole through the middle of the floor. He falls through 15 feet landing in the basement on an open concrete floor. This is without a doubt a major design flaw on a walking surface, where Marv encounters the hazard of stepping and falling due to a design flaw. This type of hazard causes serious bodily physical harm to the human body, such as neck, back and head injuries. Following up was the scene where Marv slips on the green gooey stuff on the floor and he encountered a pretty bad fall where he skid straight into a shelf with paint jars. This can cause a lot of bodily harm and the paint all over his body and face can cause skin irritations and a burning sensation in his eyes which can result in blindness. Also the weight of the shelf can cause serious damage to his body.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

In addition, Harry also makes a fall flat on his face when he decides to follow Kevin up a faulty ladder (ladder misuse causes up to 16% of all fatalities and 24% of all non-fatal injuries in USA).  This can lead to serious concussions to the head and severe damage to the lower back. One can suffer the consequences of not being able to walk properly or even walk at all.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Once again, Marv takes the fall for this one. He refuses to give up chasing the little kid and essentially sees a rope hanging from the floor above and thinks he can use it to get to the top but little does he know that Kevin tied the rope around a 100lb bag of cement. He tried testing to see if it was faulty before actually climbing as he thought he had a chance to succeed. However, the first attempt that Marv made to pull himself up, the 100lb bag of cement came crashing down on him. Not only is this a falling hazard but it can also be a chemical hazard since the cement bag burst on Marv and he was covered. The particles could have entered his body through inhalation, absorption or ingestion. This could have also been a toxic/ acute effect since it was a severe exposure level (100lbs) and it happened in one incident. As funny as this scene was, can you imagine getting a sack of flour on you head? A sack of flour is heavy and can lead to brain damage which causes destruction or deterioration of brain cells. In the U.S., every year, about 2.6 million people have some type of brain injury — whether as a result of trauma, stroke, tumor, or other illnesses, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. About 52,000 die as a result of traumatic brain injury, and more than 5 million Americans who’ve suffered traumatic brain injury require assistance in performing daily activities.

Injury: Falling from a height on a car

Hysterical as it seemed in our greatest movie, when Harry falls on the car after their unsuccessful attempt of robbing the toy store, this incident in reality can lead to death, worst case scenario. Someone can result in fractured body parts, brain damage and also endure major cuts and bruises from all the broken glass .Marv and Harry makes this movie comedic perfection, however in reality they would be dead.  Falling is one of the leading cause of accidental deaths and is a major cause of personal injury. A victim may be hospitalized with broken arms and legs and may also suffer severe brain damage.


Injury: Electrocuted through contact open conduction
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

After Marv’s encounter with the shelves of interior paint, he seeks to wash his face by attempting to open a faucet located in the basement. However, he falls into another trap set by Kevin, where the facets are connected to and electric plan, where electricity is flowing and conducting through the metal faucets. As he touches the iron faucet, he gets shocks so violently, his skeleton is visible for a few seconds. Can you imagine what that felt like? No? Me neither. Let me elaborate I’ve been shocked a few times but never to that extreme. The inherent danger of electrical shock is no laughing matter as it often results in serious injury and can even be fatal. If you’re shocked to the point where your skeleton really shows in real life, you’re dead! This hazard is majorly dangerous as the resulting injury can be death. Burns are usually most severe at the points of contact with the electrical source and the ground. In addition to burn injuries, Marv can encounter internal and spine injuries as well. Pain in a hand or foot or deformity of a part of the body may indicate broken bones resulting from the devastating electric shock. About 1000 people in the United States die each year as a result of electrocution (death caused by electric shock.)


Injury: Blow torch to the head
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

At this point a very unlucky Harry makes his way into the house after getting sacked with a bag full of wrenches. As he makes his way through the house, safely pulling on a series of light strings, he lets his guard down and pulls the last one in the bathroom without being cautious. As he does, it ignites a blow torch that is strategically aimed for the back of his head. His highly flammable knitted cotton cap is then caught on fire. When he realizes, he falls into another well laid trap by Kevin. He strategically maneuvers himself to do a hand stand on the toilet bowl in an effort to extinguish his head. Unknown to him, Kevin swapped the water with kerosene! Well we can all imagine what happened after this, an explosion. Literally, the entire ground floor of the apartment building is filled with flames. For sure there is no way Harry escaped with minor injuries. Fire hazards like this can result in severe burns to the body as well as respiratory injuries due to the inhalation of the smoke and in this particular scene Harry would have been burnt to death.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Also, in one of the scenes of the movie, Marv and Harry were climbing down the rope soaked with kerosene and Kevin strikes a match and flames just spread. In reality, burns can result from this. Picture this! You on a rope soaked with gas and it’s on fire. My vision would be death. This would be a very scary and body-trembling experience to be in.


20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

I’m sure everyone can agree that coming to think of it, the movie portrayed some horrible accidents. The first point one should note about biological hazards is that there are three major routes of entry for microorganisms to enter the body; the respiratory system, transmission through contact with body fluids of the infected or contact with a contaminated object. The last one pertains to this scene.  In the specific scene where Marv pulls the doorknob in the house and gets nails shot at him on his thigh and nose, this was a really good laugh. However, in veracity, Marv could have suffered some form of disease due to the rusty nail. It may have bacteria contained in it and could lead to severe illness when it comes into contact with his blood. Also, he can undergo skin irritation and infections and this may also leave his thigh and face swollen and bruised. It can also be poisonous therefore Marv would have suffered the consequences of poisoning and even so death.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Also, at the ending of the movie where Harry and Marv was about to get caught, the pigeon lady in the park helped Kevin get away by throwing all the pigeon food on both bandits. A flock of pigeons crowded them and began picking them. As we all know, pigeons are extremely filthy to say the least. There are over 60 diseases that birds and their droppings (bird poop) can carry. Avian flu is most common but there is also candidiasis which is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. Together with this, histoplasmosis is a type of respiratory disease that may be lethal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings. So as funny as this particular scene was, in reality it would have been a serious chaotic incident.


Points to note before jumping into the movie’s chemical hazards. Chemical hazards can come in all three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas); which makes it one of the more dangerous and harder to spot, types of hazards. They can also be categorized under the headings; flammability, re-activity and health. In other words, how easily the chemical can be ignited, whether the chemical will react to external elements, potentially inflicting bodily harm or the overall effects on one’s health due to exposure to such chemicals. In the movie, chemical hazards were observed in all three forms of matter.

Looking at the gas hazards, paint and varnish fumes would be quite strong in the renovation house, not to mention the fact there was very limited ventilation. This would have led to lightheaded-ness, dizziness, burning eyes, faint feeling among other things. Another vital and extremely dangerous gas is the carbon emissions from cars as Kevin, Harry and Marv made there was around the streets of New York. This health hazard is sometimes overlooked ,but can lead to serious medical issues with long term exposure, not to mention the volume of vehicular traffic on the streets of New York.

Components of Kerosine

Components of Kerosene

There was also a number of liquid chemical hazards used in the movie. Firstly, kerosene was used to soak the rope the boys were rappelling down, and seconds later we saw the direct flammability hazard as mentioned above when Kevin ignited the rope with a lit match, which quickly burnt the entire rope into flames.  On the topic of flammability liquids, lighter fluid was also put into a toilet bowl which caused a huge explosion when  Harry stuck his already burning beanie into it. There was also tins of paint throughout the house, some of which where spilled on Marv, getting into his mouth and eyes. This could have had the potential to impair his vision and cause  malfunctioning of his internal organs such as his heart, lungs and nervous system. The green slime used to make the fire escape ladder and basement floors extremely slippery is also worth mentioning, though it might be seen as a slip, trip and fall hazard, the potential for internal bodily harm exist if someone were to ingest this poisonous liquid.

Lastly, dust particles (solids), which were evident in both the theatre and Kevin’s aunt and uncle’s house which was being renovated. Some of the contributors to the dust would have been rubble from the deconstruction, as well as cement and drywall. As we know, exposure to cement dust can lead to lung function impairment, lung disease and also affect your heart, liver, colon, stomach and other organs. The floors and trash shoot would have had a heavy layer of dust from the renovations, not to mention the saw dust and wood shavings which would have also been raised as the three made their way around the house.

Evidently, the movie is for comedic purposes, however in real life situations, corrective and preventative action could be taken place. Due to Marv and Harry’s idiotic behavior, they were unable to do so. At the first scene spoken about, when Marv gets the brick thrown at him, in reality he should have gotten up and went straight to the hospital to cure the damage to his forehead. Also, Harry’s failed attempt to enter the house resulted in him getting a bunch of wrenches on his head. He should have looked around his surroundings knowing Kevin had mischief up his sleeve. He should have went straight to the hospital as well. Also, Toy Duncan’s Chest store should have taken proper security measures for burglars especially during Christmas time. Having security guards on alert would have prevented the glass from being broken and any other potential hazards.

Additionally, elimination of the source of contamination is central to the control and prevention of biological hazards. In reality, before entering a house which is being renovated, one should look out for heavy objects, sharp or pointy objects which can cause damage to your skin and also loose equipment such as the flooring and ladder as seen in the movie. Also slip, trip and fall play a key role to ensure the comedic feel of the movie is achieved. It results from not having a good bearing between your feet and the ground. Marv and Harry could have avoided these incidents by wearing proper footwear and having an appropriate pace of walking to prevent their silly falling accidents. Being absent minded is one of the most common ways to endure a slip trip and fall.

Also toxic material such as the jar of paints should have been stored away properly and have clear warning signs on them. Fire extinguishers must also be present in all areas being personal homes, workplaces or buildings so to reduce the harm caused by fires. Also Marv and Harry should have avoided skin contact with toxic materials, protect their eyes and face from the chemical substances and avoid breathing in toxic dusts which were present in the “Reno House.” Also, with respect to Marv being electrocuted, individuals are prone to getting hurt with wet locations and ladders involved. Being mindful and safety conscious would reduce the risk of being electrocuted.

We can now see Home Alone 2 at a different angle recognizing the health and safety hazards which affected the “Sticky Bandits.” Being one of our desired Christmas movie we can clearly highlight the specific injuries and the consequences tied to it. Furthermore, preventative actions and measures was clearly outlined showing how Harry and Marv could have reduced their accidents.


Back Pain After Falling on Ice. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.uihealthcare.org/2column.aspx?id=236463

Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. (2010, May 1.). Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-damage-symptoms-causes-treatments

Electric Shock. (2009, June 22.). Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/electric-shock?print=true

Home Alone 2. Dir. John Hughes. Fox Video, 1999. Film.

OSH Answers Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/falls.html

OSH Answers Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/toxic_safe.html

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BIR – “Building Incapable of Repairs?”

BIR – “Building Incapable of Repairs?”


Deplorable working conditions and filth at the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) Office causes twelve deaths in just five years! Is this a cause for concern? Definitely! The BIR Office at Trinidad House, Port of Spain, came under heavy scrutiny by the media and the Public Service Authority (PSA) after stumbling upon the distasteful facts of employees dying and others suffering severe illnesses due to unacceptable working conditions of which the Ministry failed to implement remedial actions to mitigate the issues in accordance to the OSH ACT 2004. Duke, in his address to the protesting workers there and at other locations throughout Trinidad, heralded the Director of Personnel Administration to ensure the health and safety of its employees and hence threatened to take legal action if the issues were not addressed in a timely manner.


The employees complained about a myriad of health and safety concerns including unsanitary conditions, leaking sewer systems, fungus on the air condition vents, dusty, uncleansed carpets, rat droppings, maggots and a lack of safety signs identifying danger zones. They referred to the building as having “sick building syndrome.” As a result, they experienced acute symptoms of weakened immune system, skin rashes and infections, eye infections such as boils on their eyelids, to chronic cases of cancer and subsequent death.


Biological Hazards were most prominent however physical, ergonomic and physiological/psychological hazards added to the dismay of the employees. After much upheaval, few corrective measures were implemented to eliminate and reduce the risk to employees and ensure a safe working environment. Evidence of the corrective strategies were gathered from  both primary and secondary sources which included newspaper clippings and face to face interviews conducted with individuals working at the building in question.


The former Minister of Finance and Economy, Larry Howai, commissioned the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) to conduct an air quality assessment on the sixth floor of the Trinidad House, after receiving several complaints of respiratory irritations, nausea and frequent mal odors from staff members who occupy the work area.  A duplicate of the CARIRI report was given to the union upon the investigation which stated that there was no significant amplification of mold in the assessed indoor area, therefore suggesting that there were no fungal contamination in the building, during the period of sampling.

Furthermore, as part of the cost reduction and ongoing rationalization of the BIR’s operations the employees at the Inland Revenue Department will be relocated to the Inland Revenue Tower by March 2015 eliminating the present hazards altogether.

In an effort to alleviate the health concerns of the employees the Ministry embarked on several “housekeeping” initiatives throughout the building such as: repainting of the workspaces, washing and cleaning of windows and the building’s exterior, changing of the ceiling tiles which were broken and they serviced the air conditioning units.

In addition, the Ministry also made provisions for employees to undertake a voluntary medical examination at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope; an entry requirement prior to an employee’s tenure highly recommended by OSH.  Subsequently, employee health records should be kept for a minimum of five (5) years thereafter to be able to monitor their health history during their stay at the Ministry, this will aid to determine if the employee’s health deteriorated or death was indeed caused as a result of the present working conditions.

Other measures were also implemented throughout the building to ensure the safety of employees. These such measures included; the installation of safety and warning signs, installation and servicing of fire extinguishers and fire hoses, and lastly, the replacement of smoke detectors. All in an attempt to improve employees’ safety on the job and reduce the likelihood of potential risks and accidents.


Finally, in keeping with OSH practices, memos were posted throughout the building to increase employee’s knowledge and awareness of their rights regarding the OSH ACT and the Public Service Regulations. Employees were also advised to practice personal hygiene such as: washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, using antibacterial soaps, to name a few. These measures would have inhibited the transfer of bacteria and germs, of which are biological hazards which can be transmitted either directly or indirectly.

As a result, the implementation of improvements and preventative strategies of the OSH issues at BIR indeed alleviated the hazard of stress affecting the employees. The measures implemented were effective in encompassing the health and safety issues. However, a more proactive approach to identifying hazards and deciding who might be harmed and how, evaluating the risks and the precautions and recording the findings as a risk assessment and reviewing same as necessary and as guided by the Act should be enforced.

cartton picture

We should agree therefore that providing a safe working environment is not very difficult particularly in this low risk environment. It involves participation from everyone, molding a culture of health and safety driven by the commitment of management to minimize the risk to the health and safety of employees and increase morale for a better, motivated workforce that will in turn reap high productivity. Thus, it has been proven and is hence appropriate to say that the BIR office is NOT incapable of repairs after all!

Work Cited:

“Duke Shuts down BIR after Death of Employees.” Duke Shuts down BIR after Death of Employees. The Daily Express, 19 Mar. 2014. Web.

Kowlessar, Geisha. “After Protest BIR Workers Relocated.” After Protest BIR Workers Relocated – The Trinidad Guardian. Geisha Kowlessar, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

“Duke Tells Trinidad House Workers to Stay Away.” Duke Tells Trinidad House Workers to Stay Away – Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

Khan, Rizal. “BIR Employee Interview Responses.” Personal interview. 16 Oct. 2015.

Kevin Matthews. 60 in Protest over Bullet Holes.. Digital image. Duke Tells Trinidad House Workers to Stay Away The Trinidad Guardian. N.p., 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

Employees of Century 21 Janitorial Services Remove Unwanted Items from Trinidad House on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain as Board of Inland Revenue Workers Continued to Stay Away in Protest of the Hazardous Work Environment Yesterday. Digital image. After Protest BIR Workers Relocated. MICHEAL BRUCE, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

Maggie by *fizzgig on deviantart. Digital image.Http://vi.sualize.us/maggie_by_fizzgig_deviantart_maggot_insect_cartoon_steak_picture_3yX5.html. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

George, Stacey. Stressed out Employee Cartoon. Digital image.https://www.pinterest.com/pin/429530883184903349/. Stacey George, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.