OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

10.0 Earthquake…Natural or Man-Made??

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Topic: Occupational Health and Safety

Title: 10.0 Earthquake… Natural or Man-Made??

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Picture taken from 2014 USA Movie

Introduction

This blog was based on the movie ‘10.0 Earthquake’. We know that earthquakes are natural disasters of which we cannot control, but did you know that they can be man made as well!? In the energy industry, there is a term called fracking. The movie referenced was thus based on the concept of illegal fracking and how it caused numerous mini-earthquakes and finally one major earthquake measuring 10.0 of the Richter scale. Saving the day was essentially the synopsis of the film, but along with it came a plethora of health and safety issues which we identified to aware you, follow bloggers and viewers, about the dangers which plague the industry. 

Hydraulic Fracking

So what is fracking? According to Rinkesh kukreja the editor of Clean and Green Energy, Hydraulic Fracking is one of the more recent methods of natural gas and oil extraction. It involves drilling down deep into the Earth’s crust where there are deposits of shale gas and oil that the more usual methods of extraction have not usually been able to reach and injecting high pressured water into the rocks that contain the gas or oil. This water, mixed with sand and a special cocktail of chemicals, the ingredients of which fracking companies have not yet released to the public, causes the rocks to break.” CONFUSING?? My Apologies!. Try taking a look at the video below.download

      Video 1: Bang Goes the Theory – Series 6 – BBC

ERGONOMIC HAZARD:

Confined Spaces

CHEMICAL HAZARD:

Propane/Methane Gas

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Image 1: Jack and Co-worker in a Confined Space posed by Chemical Hazard

The scene above, showcases two hazards, the first hazard; ergonomic hazard which according to the Australian Government Comcare website is identified as a physical factor within the environment that harms the musculoskeletal system, it includes repetitive/continuous action, manual handling, office, job or task design, uncomfortable workstation height and poor body positioning. Though we do not see some of these ergonomic hazards the scene above does show where Jack and the co-worker goes into a very dark confined plant space in search of what was causing the ongoing disturbance without doing a gas testing and atmosphere monitoring, they had to slowly walk towards their destination as they are not sure what objects are in their pathway making their job task very uncomfortable.

Also in this scene Jack and his co-worker complained of smelling methane while entering the underground of the plant, thereby presenting the second hazard; Chemical hazard which would have been toxic, corrupting their breathing passageway. Although Jack and his co-worker were wearing helmets while underground, they were not fully prepped with Personal Protective Equipment as they did not have the proper body attire and they did not walk with their supplied air respirators and were at risk therefore Jack and his co-worker should have proceeded into underground plant equipped with fully operating torch lights and full gas masks and air respirators so that they could have see clearer and also so they wouldn’t be breathing in the toxic methane. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, methane in high concentrations displaces the oxygen supply you need for breathing, especially in confined spaces. Decreased oxygen can cause suffocation and loss of consciousness and even asphyxiation.

Solution/Learning Tips: Employees on or before proceeding into the underground of the plant, must make sure to do a gas testing and atmosphere monitoring to know if it is safe to proceed down under if the test are cleared of danger, proceed down the plant while walking with a heavily lite torch light on person, as well as supplied air respirators and proper body attire to protect one self from minor unseen hazards.

ELECTRICAL HAZARD:

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Image 2: Jack using his cellphone within the plant grounds

In this scene above the actor uses his cellular device near the refinery plant. This may be dangerous as mobile phones are not intrinsically safe, meaning that they have the potential to produce a spark of such intensity that it could ignite a vapour air mix. Which is especially prominent in a refinery. Although there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove this it still should be avoided.

Solution/Learning Tips: Quickly move away from nearest plant and make the call, just to be safe.

PHYSICAL HAZARD:

Fall Hazard

Crush Hazard

Fire Hazard

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Image 3: Debris and roadways falling and sinking

There are two images displayed above, the first image depicts a falling risk posed by the workers in the plant, as can see debris is rapidly falling from the above ceiling. The other image shows both Gladstone and Emily escaping the road breakout as a result of the earthquake. These two images displays the disastrous effects that the fracking posed as a result of causing earthquakes.

Solution/Learning Tips: So to our fellow readers whenever there is a warning broadcast of earthquakes about to occur, persons must make sure to quickly execute their safety measures before, during an after the earthquake. Before the earthquake make sure you and your family are equipped with a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries at home, don’t leave heavy objects on shelves as they will fall during the earthquake, anchor restrict heavy furniture and appliances to the walls or floors, always learn the earthquake plans for school and at work, in case the earthquake is about to occur and you are not home and finally make your own family plan of meeting after the earthquake if your family is by some reason separated. During the Earthquake make sure to stay calm, if you’re indoors, stand against a wall near the center of the building, stand in a doorway, or crawl under heavy furniture and stay away from the windows. If you’re outside, stay outside, stay in the open away from power lines or anything that might fall and stay away from buildings. Proceed to the nearest muster point, and as seen in the second image above, if you’re in a car, stop the car and stay inside the car until the earthquake stops else you can be crushed by falling debris.

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Image 5: Fire Hazard

Coming closer to the end of the movie there is an explosion scene which is shown in the figure above. Explosions are classified as a fire hazard and are dangerous in many ways. Fire hazards can contain live flames, sparks, hot objects and chemicals that can potentially ignite or intensify a fire from becoming larger and uncontrolled which was scene when a small ground fire inflamed the helicopter and the skyscrapers. This is what occurs in the scene as a chemical explosion transpires. This explosion was most likely caused by a leak in gas lines of either propane or methane with a possible mixture of oxygen.

Solution/Learning Tips: The best approach to prevent fires and explosions is to substitute or minimise the use of flammable material. If that is not possible it is important to avoid effective sources of ignition. Fire protection methods can also be used as they are measures that are taken to prevent fires from becoming destructive and reduce the impact. It involves the implementation of safety planning practices and drills that includes individuals to be educated on fires, research and investigation, safety planning and training.

PRESSURE HAZARD:

 

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Image 4: Pressure Hazard in the underground of the plant

The above image at the end shows compressed gases bursting out of the pipes. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, all compressed gases are hazardous because of the high pressures inside the cylinders. Gas can be released deliberately by opening the cylinder valve, or as seen in the image above accidentally from a broken or leaking valve due to the massive movement or possibly from a safety device. Even at a relatively low pressure, gas can flow rapidly from an open or leaking cylinder. In the image you will see that Jack received a gush of gas to his face which may have damaged or injured him by causing Anoxia which is basically no oxygen available or Hypoxia; known as reduced oxygen and gases trapped in body cavities such as sinus passages
middle ear, lungs eyes and skin being burnt depending on pressure. There have been many cases in which damaged cylinders have become uncontrolled rockets or pinwheels and have caused severe injury and damage. This danger has happened when the cylinder valve broke and high pressure gases escaped out rapidly.

Solution/Learning Tips: Employees while trailing the underground of the plant must make sure to walk with well supplied air respirators and proper body attire to protect themselves from hazards and risks, so that if same thing was to happen to them, that happened to Jack, they would not be inured, but will be able to effectively move to the nearest safe pathway. This can be prevented if there is sufficient training & testing of personnel, periodic inspections, proper operating conditions, relieve pressure from system, keep hoses short, secure cylinders and isolate plants far away from residential or commercial areas.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARD:

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Image 6: Jack, Stephanie looking for their daughter Nicole, and finally finds her.

In the scene above, you will see family stress as Jack and Stephanie race to find their daughter Nicole and at the end finding her safely. Just imagine an earthquake is occurring and your loved ones are not with you, and you search everywhere to find them unharmed. Its not a nice thing to imagine I may say!. The worrying and stress can cause psychological hazard and risk to one self and the family. Questions such like; Is my family alive or dead? Are they injured? Are they safe? would be racing through their minds causing them to become panicked, stressed and may possibly cause heart stress.Psychological hazards are identified as any hazard that affects the mental well-being or mental health of the worker by overwhelming individual coping mechanisms and impacting the worker’s ability to work in a healthy and safe manner” (Physiotherapy Alberta- n.d.)

Solution/Learning Tip: This may be a challenging to solution to give, but the best solution is to just think positive thoughts, pray and believe that you will return to your family member and never GIVE UP!

Inadequate Personal Protective Equipment:

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Image  6: Inadequate Evacuation Plan Causing Fatalities

 Jack and his co-worker could not have predicted that the metal pole would have fallen on the underground cover while they were proceeding out, but they became fearful when it closed because they were at risk from the broken gas lines and the steadily reduction in oxygen and they were not equipped with the supplied air respirators, they also could not have evacuated anywhere else because all the pathways behind them was too dangerous to even proceed.

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Image 7: Jack, his co-worker, Gladstone and Emily Outside plant grounds

These actors are at risk in this scene above as full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not worn while they are on the plant. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Therefore they should have the majority of these items if they are in the near vicinity of the plant.

Solution/Learning Tips:This shows us that something will always go wrong in the workplace that may be detrimental to our lives so employees and employers must take the necessary precautions to have safe systems of work in cases such as trapped in confined spaces, lack of equipment and evacuation plans and procedures. It also shows us that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must always be present and worn correctly, it goes a long way in preventing serious damage to your body.

Conclusion

While Earthquakes are natural disasters, there are opinions (eg John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network) that it can be caused by man and his lack of concern for his environment. Man is not just a threat to his environment and all the other creatures, but the greatest threat to himself. Had it not been for Organizational Safety and Health so many issues normally would go unnoticed. There were Physical Hazards, Chemical Hazards and Psychological Hazards the combination of which was leading to a National Disaster. It is clear that being ignorant to the safety and health issues that can occur does not mean they are not already present. There is an old local saying “what miss yuh, eh pass yuh”, that is to say, not because it has not happened yet does not mean it will not. The damage to our environment might not be realized in the near future but may eventually present itself.

Earthquake Catastrophe

Image 8: Taken from movie

References:

“10.0 Earthquake”, 15th October, 2014, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3488056/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana”, May 2005,

http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html

“Major treats from fracking-related air pollution”, 16th December, 2014, https://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/141216

“Worker exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing”, June, 2012,   https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.html

“Keep Fracking away from T&T”, 29th November, 2013, http://www.trinidadexpress.com/letters/Keep-fracking-away-from-TT-233880651.html

http://www.livescience.com/32932-can-humans-cause-earthquakes.html

Canadian Centre Occupational Health and Safety:-https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/compressed/compress.html

https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/Prevention_of_fires_and_explosions

http://www.uh.edu/~jhansen/ITEC4350/GoetCh11.htm

United States Department of Labour; Occupational Health and Safety Administration

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