OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

We’re back at it again…. but this time we investigated an Auto Garage in Curepe.

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Panoramic View of Auto Garage Located in Curepe. Source: Image captured from mobile device

 Hazards of an Auto Garage’s clutter.

Our group visited an auto garage, located  in Curepe, on Monday 17th October, 2016. The auto garage specializes in the restoration of damaged vehicles and also in the sale of used parts and auto maintenance. This auto garage was established 30 years ago and is still serving the public today. After gaining permission from the owner, our group took a tour of the garage to ascertain the potential hazards that may threaten the safety of workers and visitors. The Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2004 as amended in 2006 (OSH ACT 2006); Section 13A states,“Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient annual assessment of— (a) the risks to the safety and health of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the safety and health of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the environmental impact of his undertaking”. After a discussion with the owner, he allowed us to investigate his premises for potential hazards which was the intent and rational for our visit. This auto garage employs six persons, the youngest being 22-years old and they all face the same type of occupational, and health and safety risks.  There were many exposures which we observed including:

  • Exposure to chemicals and vehicle exhaust
  • Exposure to biological material and asbestos
  • Injuries like sprain cuts and bruises
  • Fatalities from falling vehicular parts.
  • Awkward ,repetitive or prolonged periods of stationary posture during maintenance
  • Over-crowding in the auto garage.
  • Handling vehicle parts or heavy objects e.g. suspension component, batteries and brakes assembles

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

TRIP AND FALL HAZARDS

Upon our visit to the garage we encountered many trip and fall hazards. One of our group members actually tripped and almost fell. Although this was not the case, this mishap led us to the idea to videotape so that viewers would have better clarity (her trip happened for a reason). Nevertheless, discussed further are some of the trip and fall hazards that were present at the garage.

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Gif 1 demonstrating member tripping on engine hoist

Source: Video captured using mobile device and Gif 1 created using http://giphy.com/

On entrance to the garage there was an Engine Hoist. An engine hoist or engine

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Engine Hoist. Source: Image captured from mobile device

crane (better known as a cherry picker) is basically a repair tool that is used in garage workshops or workshops of similar nature, to install or remove motor vehicular engines, in small or crowded vehicle engine compartments. This tool was spotted as our first trip and fall hazard, the hazard one of our members literally experienced (refer to Gif 1). The Engine Crane was found to be where customers/clients would use as a walkway. Knowing the design of an engine hoist, the legs of this tool was left unfolded, leaving customers and workers vulnerable to injury. Another part of the tool, seen as a hook hanging from the top, could have easily pierced someone and this could have led to a cut or stick injury.

Solution: Engine Hoists are designed in such a way that its legs can be folded when it’s not in use. The practice of folding its legs when workers no longer use the tool should be adopted. The engine hoist should be folded and secured in an area where the customers and other persons are not likely to encounter such risks.

We also noticed several garbage piles throughout the garage. These garbage piles had pieces of wires, steel, glass and rubber. The contents of the garbage piles could have easily tripped someone, especially the wire and rubber refuse causing that person to fall. Furthermore, if a trip and fall incident were to occur, the person would be exposed to bruises and splinters from shattered glass perforating the skin.

Solution: In so saying, we highly commend their attempts for up keeping the cleanliness of the workplace, but, simply discarding these garbage piles to a main dumpster, would have been a better approach than leaving the garbage piles in the walkway. In addition to this, different containers could have been set into place to discard different types of materials used. For example, a container or bins for rubber refuse.

Moving into the “stockroom” of the garage, there was an ultimate high risk of trip and fall

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Walkway displaying vehicular parts. Source: Image captured from mobile device

hazards that workers could have been exposed to. Different motor parts, fuel hoses, engine parts, screws, bolts, just to mention a few were seen scattered along the pathway where the parts were being kept. This was noticed for every lane which stocked motor vehicular parts. When workers are sent to look for particular parts, because of its obstructed view, and cluttered pathways, they would be most susceptible to trip and fall incidents.

Solution: Parts should be packed away in such a manner that it would not be scattered on the pathway. If this cannot be done, parts should be packed neatly against the shelves, leaving a clear mid walkway for workers to use. Additionally, the organization of such parts should be emphasized to workers, and make it known to workers, the risk they are creating for themselves. Another solution may be to expand the storage space so that there is sufficient room to accommodate any loose, extra or new parts.

 

Additionally, there was poor lighting under the sheds and according to the OSH Act amended in 2006, Sec 33 (1), it states that, “ In every part of an establishment where employees are working or passing, there shall be provided and maintained sufficient and suitable lighting…..” As noted, this section of the Act was breached. The areas where car parts were being kept was dark . This could have caused any person who enters that area to fall, because of little objects present and not being able to see well, causing a person to trip and fall. Also, poor lighting could cause eye strain to workers who are in search for a particular part. Could you imagine having to look for a screw in that dark area, more so, where the area in search is clustered with different objects? Surely a phone’s flashlight won’t help!

Solution: The owner should provide sufficient lighting so that workers would not have difficulty finding a part when needed. This would prevent eye strains, as well as, someone falling because they cannot see where they are going.

SLIP AND FALL HAZARDS

 Unknown chemicals were noticed spilled in different areas of the garage. Workers,

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Chemical spills on the floor. Source: Image captured from mobile device

customers and clients could have been predisposed to slipping on these contents and falling. Furthermore, some of these contents could have contained substances that some persons could have had a sensitive/allergic reaction to. The effects of such may have been even more detrimental.

Solution: Clean up spills immediately after there is a chemical spillage. If this cannot be done immediately after, have appropriate signs/notices displayed to that effect. Also, if the spillage is as a result of pouring out chemicals from vehicles or other containers, there should be specific filter apparatus to assist, in order to prevent spillage of contents.

CRUSH HAZARDS

Crush hazards can cause injuries to ones limbs or other body parts, and in extreme situations cause amputations or even death. These injuries can be caused by having contact with moving equipment, machinery or parts and persons may be struck by an object or equipment that may fall/collapse.

Upon visiting the auto garage, there were many objects that can be seen as a crush hazard.

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Car Doors Hanging on metal hooks. Source: Image captured from mobile device

There were many car doors that were hanging from a metal hook in a specific area in the garage. Since this particular area in the garage was overcrowded with these doors and was closely packed together, there was a risk that while taking down one it may cause another to fall on a person and crush them. Persons may be pinned or caught under the door that fell. A door is very big and heavy, and could cause serious damage if it falls on someone, may cause amputations by the sharp edges or head injuries.

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Car  Grill hung from the ceiling on a metal hook. Source: Image captured from mobile device

In another area of the garage, a car grill was seen hanging from the roof. If this was not properly fastened it can fall on someone and cause injuries. Throughout the garage, car parts were seen packed onto shelves that were high as the roof. The aisles were narrow and offered a limited area for movement. Getting access to car parts at the highest points within this confined space seemed difficult and would be dangerous to all workers. Objects can fall from high points onto a worker’s head or body and can cause injury.

Solution:  The employer should ensure that the means by which the car doors are stored is safe enough for movement of workers while they are on the job. He should ensure that the doors are properly fastened and will not fall on his workers. The car parts on the shelves should be securely placed and not overstocked on the shelves. There should be no parts hanging down from the shelves that can easily fall and injure workers.

Also the workers should wear personal protective equipment such as steel-toed shoes for protection of the feet and hard hat for protection of the head. According to the OSH Act amended in 2006, in section 23(1) it speaks of persons in an establishment that are at risk of head, eye, ear, foot and hand injury should be provided with suitable protective clothing or devices.

Most importantly, workers should be trained on handling and proper storage of these car parts.

FIRE HAZARDS

According to Safeopedia.com, fire hazards include all types of live flames, causes of sparks, hot objects, and chemicals that are potential for ignition, or that can aggravate a fire to become large and uncontrolled. Fire hazards also include all types of potential threats to fire prevention practices, firefighting, built-in fire safety systems and situations that restrict the escape of people from an affected building or area in the event of a fire.

 Class B Fires

These fires involve flammable liquids including oils, grease, tar, lacquers, flammable gases, oil-based paints, and some plastics. (F.I.E.L.D.S. Fire Protection Inc. 2011)

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No Smoking Sign. Source: Image captured from mobile device

At the garage, one potential fire hazard was the workers smoking cigarettes near oil spills while taking a break, even though there was a no smoking sign. There were many oils spills throughout the compound which could have easily caused a fire if a cigarette butt had been carelessly discarded on the floor.

Solution: Workers should not smoke on the compound. If the smokers need to smoke they can exit the compound, smoke and then return because the garage is located near the road.

Another hazard at the garage was the improper storage of flammable and hazardous

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Unsecured Propane Gas Cylinder. Source: Image captured from mobile device

materials and chemicals. A propane gas tank was seen standing unsecured behind some car parts exposed to the elements. If the compressed gas cylinder was knocked over, it could have exerted a tremendous force!

Solutions: Gas cylinders should be stored in the upright position and secured with an insulated chain or non-conductive belt. The area must be clearly identified, dry, well-ventilated, away from doorways, aisles, elevators, and stairs. With outside storage, place on a fireproof surface and enclose in a tamper-proof enclosure.

Subsequently, the hindrance to sight or to reach firefighting equipment, markings and alarm systems was another hazard. One fire extinguisher was in the office area under the desk and the other at the side of the freezer. When asked, “Do you have any fire extinguishers”, the owner replied, “Yeah yeah, it in the office. Everything check out and up to date”. The fire extinguisher however, had not been serviced since 10th September, 2012.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Fire extinguishers should be near the work area and easily accessible. Dry chemical, cartridge and cylinder operated fire extinguishers, with mild steel shells should be serviced every year. Employees should be trained to use fire extinguishers (refer to image below), and should know where the fire alarm is, and emergency evacuation and assembly procedures.

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Image showing how to use a fire extinguisher

Source: http://americleaninc.com/how-to-use-a-fire-extinguisher/

The last fire hazard was the absence of a fire detection and alarm system. The garage was loacted under a house. The people living upstairs would be unaware of any fires and in the event of a fire, rapid evacuation is key to survival!

Solution: Fire detection and automatic or semi-automatic fire alarm systems must be installed to prevent injury and to avoid serious damage to property.

CHEMICAL HAZARDS

Chemical hazards can pose harmful health effects and can lead to physical hazards as well. While exploring other hazards on the compound we came across numerous chemical hazards. These hazards identified may seem normal as it is an auto garage but they can still pose some threat to both the workers, passers-by and to the environment.

One of these hazards found… well …smelt was a pungent odour of old oil and other unidentified odours. Inhaling chemicals everyday can have drastic effects on all body systems. These effects can be either acute (shows up immediately or soon after exposure) or chronic (takes years to show up). On the floor, we noticed old oil spills, which were being decomposed by the sun, car parts with chemical residue, an open car bonnet and opened containers of unknown substances, these all contributed to the foul odours. According to The OSH Act amended in 2006, fumes and other impurities emitted from an establishment that are injurious or offensive to the employees, measures must be taken to protect the employees from inhalation.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Some of these odours cannot be avoided but can be reduced.Regular power washing of the area can be used to remove old oils from emitting fumes, re-covering containers or appropriately disposing of containers which are not in use or by purchasing an air cleaner to aid in purification of the air in the auto shops.

Another hazard spotted was chemicals laying around in soft drink, detergent, other bottles and some in their original containers. Although some of the bottles were labeled (not clearly), others were not and they were inappropriately stored. Some may have been corrosive and deteriorate the bottles exposing their contents. The OSH Act amended in 2006 states that chemicals must be clearly labeled, all labels should be legible and in good condition. Repair or replace damaged or missing labels. Chemicals that are not in the manufacturer’s original container must be labeled with the content indicating if it is hazardous to warn individuals in the work area. Not labeling these chemicals at all or properly especially if it is a commonly known drinking bottle can lead to accidental ingestion and we don’t think degreaser taste like soft drink.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Other than labeling containers appropriately, having a designated area for these chemicals with appropriate and adequate storage cabinets or shelves would help to avoid accidental ingestion or spillage. The usse of appropriate containers for transfer of chemicals would also avoid spillage.

ERGONOMIC HAZARDS

An ergonomic hazard can be defined as any work place conditions that can cause a potential risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system of an individual. According to the University of Chicago, Environment Health and Safety,  ergonomic hazards can be caused by repetition of specific movements, extremes of temperature, vibrations, forceful movement and unnatural postures to name a few. In the setting of, a mechanical workshop or garage, there can be an increased risk for ergonomic hazards due to the propping of workers to check the engine of the vehicle and performing work for extended periods of time.

At this garage, the workers can be seen carrying on an examination of a vehicle. As seen

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Workers seen bending over a vehicle. Source: Image captured from mobile device

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Workers checking vehicle. Source: Image captured from mobile device

in the image, these workers are bent over looking at the vehicle and this was done for a total of fifteen minutes. In this mechanical field, workers have high risk for acute musculoskeletal injures like tendon rupture or hernia cause by overexertion and poor posture for prolonged periods of time and carpal tunnel syndrome Additionally, workers can be susceptible to muscle sprains and strains due to improper lifting of objects. Individuals may not always know the proper method for lifting objects, or they may just resort to using short cuts and this can lead to injuries. Personal protective equipment, or PPE is designed to protect workers from serious work place injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical,  physical, electrical, mechanical or other work place hazards.  These  workers are seen here with no personal protective wear such as   coveralls, safety goggles or safety shoes while carrying out their duties.  The OSH Act amended in 2006, clearly states that it is the duty of an employer to supply his workers with adequate PPE at the work place.

Solution: Proper supportive wear should be worn by all workers such as back braces and

wrist bands during working hours. Heavy objects should be pushed instead of being dragged.

When lifting heavy objects:

  1. Keep a wide stance
  2. Squat down do not bend
  3. Maintain a good posture
  4. Slowly lift using your legs not you back
  5. Hold the object at belly button level
  6. When setting the object down ensure that you squat

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS

At this auto garage, customers are free to walk around but there are various car parts stacked along the path ways on heights. This can cause stress and anxiousness because these items are not secured and can fall and result in bodily harm. On the shelves, there are vehicular parts projecting onto the pathway, a customer who is not mindful can walk into these items. For me, now being aware of various potential hazards walking through this establishment, caused a lot of anxiety as I knew what could have happened if these objects were to fall, and this can happen to customers. The bathroom was located at the back of the business and the pathway had little lighting and was cluttered with car parts and this could be frustrating to some customers.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions:

  • Customers should be restricted from walking through this business or if is necessary for the customer to walk through, a worker should be there to direct the customers.
  • The pathway should be cleared of all debris and the bathroom should be relocated to the front of the business.

BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS

It was evident that this establishment was overcrowded and cluttered on entry. There were

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Stacked Tyres exposed to Environmental Elements. Source: Image captured from mobile device

stacked tyres exposed to environmental elements and several tyres that were not properly stored. These tyres may collect moisture and become the perfect environment for the breeding of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are known to be the carriers of Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Chikungunya and the Zika Virus, all of which are prominent in the society. All employees, visitors or customers and environs are at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes and may become infected with any of the previously mentioned mosquito borne diseases.

Solutions: 

  • Tyres should be neatly stored and covered to prevent the collection of water. The area where the tyres are stored should be fumigated evry three months.
  • Employees should apply insect repellent to exposed sections of their body.
  • Visitors/Customers should have limited access to areas where mosquito infestation may be high.

Another area which posed potential biological hazards was the improper storage of large quantities of miscellaneous materials.  Improperly stored materials may create a habitat for rodents and roaches.  Roaches are known to be carriers of Salmonella and E. coli bacteria while rodents are responsible for Leptospirosis and Rat bite fever. Workers are at the greatest risk since these rodents and roaches may come into contact with foodstuff in the kitchen and, or lunch room.

Solutions:

  • This garage should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and unwanted objects should be discarded monthly.
  • A proper storage plan should be implemented and followed.
  • Items should be stored above the ground on metal or mesh shelves.
  • Routine fumigation and the setting up of rodent and roach traps throughout the facility, these should be installed and monitored by a professional pest control company.
  • All foodstuff should be stored in properly sealed containers and, or refrigerated.
  • All eating and drinking utensils should be washed before they are used.

 

HANDLING THE RISKS: 

Firstly the manager needs to recognize the risk in order to become aware of the potential hazards and concerns. The owner can adopt these steps to reduce the risk at his work place by incorporating the following recommendation:

  • Identify all the hazards in these categories; physical,chemical, biological, ergonomic and psychological and train workers on how to recognize and avoid  them.
  • Conduct annual risk assessments and/or in 6 months if there has been a significant change
  • Inspect tools and equipment regularly
  • Ask workers to report any hazards right away
  • Wear protective gloves and other protective equipment when working with solvents and other hazardous materials.
  • Clean up spills promptly.

In conclusion, there can be numerous hazards at any establishment and it was no different for this Auto Garage.  As mentioned before the employer plays a major role in ensuring the safety of his workers and the OSH Act list this as one of the duties of an employer. Once you have become sensitized to Health and Safety issues it becomes easier to identify them. Some readers may even be able to identify additional hazards that were not previously mentioned and that is excellent.

Here are some extra photos we took of the Auto Garage. Can you identify the hazards? Respond in the comments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

References


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One thought on “We’re back at it again…. but this time we investigated an Auto Garage in Curepe.

  1. No better place to conduct a risk assessment than at a car parts place. Another case of, “the norm for years” until a devastating event occurs and then authorities may implement strict laws for these car parts places/garages.

    Liked by 1 person

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