OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

Cutting the Risks at the University of the West Indies Carpentry Workshop: An OSH Assessment




Image 1: University of the West Indies Carpentry Division, St. Augustine, Trinidad.


Occupational hazards are everywhere; as a result of this officials of health and safety must make it their duty to properly inspect working procedures. Various strategies such as a risk assessments and regular health and safety checks must be conducted to ensure the safety of workers and staff. A risk assessment is essentially an investigation of a particular environment which looks for various forms of hazards, which may affect the health, and safety of all persons involved there, it also identifies sensible measures which can be used to control the risks in the workplace. A hazard is anything that can cause damage or harm. It may include components such as chemicals, electricity, ladder work, mechanical failures, lack of personal protective equipment, and even an inadequate workforce. The following blog content is aimed at enlightening all its viewers of some major hazards which people face in most manufacturing and industrial workplaces today, specifically the University of the West Indies (UWI) Carpentry Shop.

Mechanical Hazards

Machine Chop/Cut Hazard



Image 2 & Gif 1: Employee operating and measuring machinery and equipment without proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In the image above we see an employee of the UWI Carpentry Shop sawing a sheet of ply without any gloves on his hands and also not using a push stick. His entire hand is at an extreme risk, as contact with the blade will cause irreparable damage to his hand possibly causing it to be severed or detached. Splinters from handling the wood can also pierce his skin causing damage because while he is handling the wood with his bare hands, he is contributing to the sharp wood shavings puncturing and remaining in his hand causing infections such as mid palmar abscess and other biological diseases which can further the damage. According to the Reed Group, Medical Disability Advisor, MDGuidelines, a palmar abscess is an abscess deep within the tissues of the palm of the hand. An abscess is a localized collection of pus secondary to infection, usually bacterial and can occur in any of the compartments formed by the complex array of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, joints, blood vessels, and nerves that make up the hand.

Solution/Recommendation: It is recommended that the employees wear their personal protective equipment while operating at work so as to avoid any injury or damage to themselves.






Image 3 & 4: Carpentry Shop Temperature Hazard

Have you ever worked in an unbearable or uncomfortable temperature? Was it humid or too cold?  You may have! Just like these employees of the UWI Carpentry Shop where we found temperature hazards. The temperature on entering the workshop was unbearably hot and when asking the employees how they managed to work in such hot conditions, their reply was that “we came on a good day.” They said that usually there is little to no wind blowing into the shop and the sun is 10 times worse causing conditions to increasingly worsen. We also observed that the ventilation fans located to the top of the building were not functioning and even when they were fixed or repaired, it is still was too high to serve its purpose, so there substitute was to use a high powered standing fan to circulate the air throughout the shop, but this lead to another major problem, as the standing fans pushed the lying dust directly into the employees eyes and created a dusty and congested atmosphere, which added to the risk of both ergonomic and biological hazards as dust contributes to very stressful work conditions and can eventually lead to respiratory illness, but while observing we also felt the dust in our throats and our eyes after being there for only 1 hour, and it was seen that the employees were not wearing dusk masks and safety glasses when we came in but only when we spoke to the supervisor inform him of our purpose, he only then hurriedly and not too discreetly told his employees to gear up. All workplaces in every sector or industry especially manufacturing should have all safety measures in place for its employees, there must be a provision of proper ventilation and breathable work areas to allow employees their comfort and safety. Employees must also wear their personal protective gear at all times especially when working around dust and other dangerous substances. In the case of the UWI Carpentry Shop, the supervisor or manager must allow employees to take sufficient breaks to give the employees a break to remove themselves from the continuous dust and clear their nasal passage way .Introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure such as flexible working patterns, job rotation, and workstation rotation should be encourage and implemented.



Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard




Image 5 & 6: Trip and Fall Hazard from extension cords and residual dust.

These electrical extension cords as seen in the image above were carelessly placed in commonly used walkways. This was extremely dangerous since there were many sharp objects and powerful machinery in the vicinity, and could cause an employee to trip and fall and injury themselves or even having the machinery fall unto them causing even more damages. The saw dust on the ground heightened the risk of slipping and falling because of the lack of grip on the surface if an employee was to fall.

Solution/Recommendation: It would be recommended to put rubber mats around the work site, and have the employees do regular cleaning of their work space so to avoid any injury from tripping or slipping and falling. It is also recommended that the employees safeguard all highly powered machinery away from areas where they can easily fall and damage someone.


Crush and Lifting Hazards



Image 7: Standing Lumber posing Crush and Lifting Hazard

As seen in the image above the size of these lumber is very huge. With permission we tried lifting the lumbers and then realised how heavy they were, not to mention dangerous. There is a lifting hazard present since their area is confined and the board due to the size is awkwardly standing against the wall and if an employee presumed to lift one, it would be very difficult as the space is small the move it smoothly to different directions and is very heavy to carry across long distances, thereby causing a lifting hazard. It can also lead to a crush hazard as it may in some situation fall unto an employee while passing by and crush him to the floor causing him to be seriously injured.

Solution/Recommendation: These boards should not have been stored in that upright position since the chance of it falling is very likely. It should be laid down on the ground or isolated table away from commonly used spaces and should only be accessed if needed by more than one employee. When telling the supervision, he agreed with us to move it soon which was a very good measure of safety on his part. Lifting hazards are mainly caused by improper lifting, posture and ergonomics, therefore the employees and supervisors must ensure that their work-process entails a safe system of work whereby proper lifting techniques are used all throughout the workplace. By using the following simple but proper lifting technique tips, the employees will avoid compressing the spinal flow or straining the lower back when lifting. The simple acronym used to memorise the lifting technique is S-S-R. Squat (Foot to Shoulder level) – Stance (keeping good posture) – Rise {slowly rise and lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back)}. Keeping your back straight, hold the load as close to your body as possible, Use your feet, while leading your hips to change direction, taking small steps. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move. Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.


Electrical Hazards






Image 8, 9 & 10: Electrical Panel Box immersed with “Cob Web” and barred of by wood (improper safeguarding)

Wall plugs filled with dust

In the images above, you will notice that all the electrical equipment is improperly maintained, that can cause serious damage to all employees who work within the area. There is cob web surrounding the electrical panel box that cause cause static and fires from the dust particles. The panel box itself is not properly safeguarded as it is opened and barred off by wood and the wall plugs are filled with dust that can cause electrocution and again electrical static.


The employees and supervisors MUST ensure that only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work, providing safe and suitable electrical equipment for example. Providing enough socket outlets as overloading socket outlets by using adapters can cause fires, as well as ensuring power circuits are protected by the appropriate rated fuse or circuit breaker to prevent overloading and erosion of dust. If the circuit keeps overloading and dust keeps increasing, this can create a fire risk due to static and using battery powered tools instead of mains operated where possible.

Always inspect and test all electrical equipment as it will help determine whether it is electrically safe to work around that area. Have regular cleaning of electrical panels and wall plugs with the proper equipment.


Fire Hazard




Image 11 & 12: Inspected Fire Extinguisher in UWI Carpentry Shop

While inspecting and observing the Carpentry Shop we bounced up on some fire extinguisher that were serviced on time and ready to be used. This is a very good example of proper safety measures in case of fire hazards, as the fire extinguisher is fully operational and has been inspected by the necessary persons.


 “Who hurts when I get hurt”?

Regardless of the types of hazard, be it Physical, Chemical, Biological, Psychological or Ergonomic Hazards we often think that it’s the person that got hurt, or liable to get hurt, is the only one that matters. But what about the person(s) directly associated with the person at risk? Should you the person at risk consider the welfare of your loved ones if you were to be injured? You may not be working for a hefty salary, or even be able to afford an insurance, or the organisation you work for does not provide health insurance. You often consider your economic circumstances before your health and safety. I say STOP, think about if you can be replaced at home or if your body part can be replaced. And if you were fortunate to survive, what will be your future, and ultimately the future of your family.  He who works safe today lives to work another day.


  1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016/10/11 https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/electrical.html
  2. Occupational Heat Exposure, July 2009, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/
  3. Extreme Hot or Cold Temperature Conditions, 24 October, 2016, https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/hot_cold.html
  4. Managing Workplace Temperature, June 2010, http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/managers.htm
  5. Pressure Equipment, January 2011, http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/managers.htm


  1. http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/proper-lifting-technique




Image 13: Workers without safety gear when we just arrived.



12 thoughts on “Cutting the Risks at the University of the West Indies Carpentry Workshop: An OSH Assessment

  1. Quite a detailed evaluation, which would have been useful to the leaders with whom you shared your findings. Good job in general. However, I could not understand how dust could introduce ergonomic hazards.


    • Thank You! Miss, however we do apologize for this. It was a honest mistake in writing as it was suppose to be biological and chemical hazard. Why Chemical Hazard? Well according to our research found in the United States Department of Labour; Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “the health effects associated with wood dust come not only from biological organisms such as mold and fungi which grow on the wood, but also chemicals such as formaldehyde, copper and many more chemicals used in the processing of some woods.” Though we were unable to identify the specific chemical components within the wood at the carpentry shop, we still wanted to give a general mention to our viewers that the wood we use and its residue after sawing/cutting can have chemical hazards causing risk to our health and safety. Thank You again Miss.


  2. A good assessment, this work space is similar to many in Trinidad. Simple hazards that are easily fixed are ignored and worked around, exposing workers to unnecessary risks.
    Most of these are ‘low hanging fruit’ that managers can fix quite easily. Some examples of this in this assessment would be, industrial ventilation fans installed in walls a few feet above floor level, respirators supplied for staff, shelving for unused wood and permanent sockets installed at workstations.
    Although some of these may sound complicated they can all be implemented at minimal costs.


  3. Some of the highlighted hazards were so blatantly dangerous, i still can’t believe in 2016 people still function like this. It was very insightful overall and a real eye opener to some hidden and not so hidden dangerous in the work space.


  4. According to OSHA Act 2004 and 2006, employees must assume personal responsibility for their own safety and actions at work and must be aware of and respect all potential hazards. Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under subsection (1), Provision of adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for head, eye, ear, hand, and foot to prevent body injury. Employer is also responsible for provision of Instruction and training and supervision to ensure safety and safe use of equipment for handling, storage and transport of materials and substances. As seen UWI Carpentry Work shop OSHA Blog the worker who was working the lathe was in breach of wearing full PPE, I wish to add further recommendations to the report that employees not allow to work without personal protective clothing. Nowadays most companies locally and abroad do not workers to work if their employees’ are not properly clothed in terms of wearing PPE. Companies such as Repsol, Lake Asphalt Trinidad and TTEC have a strike no tolerant policy when it comes to the safety of its workers.


  5. Well done ddpreppers! I was a bit confused as well when you mentioned that the dust as part ergonomic hazards, however, you cleared that up pretty well in your response above.

    Another valuable hazard to make mention of is the noise hazard. Did you know that the level of noise produced from these electrical saws whether cutting steel or wood can impair one’s hearing over time? Believe it or not if an employee or student exposes him or herself to this level of noise everyday for a few hours, over the long term this person will actually suffer hearing loss that cannot be reversed or corrected with medical surgery or applied treatment. Actually, what happens is that the level of noise damage tissues in the ear overtime, depleting our sense of hearing.

    I think it is critical that knowledge is shared as well because the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago does not go into too much details with regards to noise levels and how certain levels of noise can negatively impact on one’s hearing.


  6. I think this was some really quality work put forward here. This assessment can be matched to several other work environments in Trinidad itself where conditions and standards are left much to question. Basic measures can be made to resolve many issues identified here and it is appauling to see that these issues are still taking place in this day and age. I think that your recommendations put forth were very logical and practical and these hazards can be solved quickly. As stated above, the noise hazard is something worth mentioning. In any sort of workshop, noise is a concerning factor which can have both short and long lasting effects. It should be addressed by providing ear-plugs to workers too minimise the noise levels that they may be exposed to. It can cause headaches, discomfort and loss of hearing temporarily or long term. Again good work overall!


  7. Great job ddpeppers! It was interesting to find out all the breaches in safety protocols in a carpentry workshop, it was surprising that many individuals did not have the necessary protective gear when dealing with machinery and lumber on a consistent basis.

    Another hazard in this setting is Biological. All the lumber either stacked or piled throughout the workstation presents the perfect breeding ground for pests. As it was mentioned that the workstation lacks proper ventilation is inviting enough for ants, roaches, rats/mice to inhabit a corner or a confined warm space in the workplace. Biologically, these pests can unknowingly scamper on all surfaces therefore staff handling materials or touch surfaces without protective gear are at most risk for viruses and bacteria such as food poisoning or Leptospirosis.
    The OSH ACT of Trinidad and Tobago provides guidelines for health and safety protocols that employers and employees must follow, however it doesn’t specify the extent an employee must be protected within the compound. Furthermore, no detail is given to compensate employees equally for sickness caused by the workplace environment.


  8. This is a nice piece. The department was relocated recently about a year ago and this is far better than what existed before. I think the UWI on the whole needs to educate their employees and students on health and safety in the workplace and on the campus. Some employees are seriously not aware that their lives are at risk by the jobs they perform everyday. While the University and by extension the H&SU must ensure a safe work environment for its employees it is also the responsibility of the employees to ensure their safety and health on the job.


  9. A very informative assessment, there were additional electrical hazard in the workshop with the power outlets being knotted and suspended from the ceiling. Electrical hazards exist in contact with exposed live parts, exposing employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions where an electrical fault is the source of ignition. The knotting of the cords can result in wires being broken. Additionally, the electrical cables are being suspended from the ceiling which places the wires under tension, over time the insulation will wear, creating an electrical hazard.

    Violations of the OSHA Act
    All conductors shall either be covered with insulating material and further efficiently protected where necessary to prevent danger, or they shall be so placed and safeguarded as to prevent danger so far as is reasonably practicable. (OSHA 2014, Schedule 2, Electricity Regulations, 2)

    a) Minimum stress should be placed on conductors and provide enough bulge to keep it from pulling out.
    b) Management should encourage electrical safety-related work practices through training and supervision.
    c) Undertake better housekeeping practices to ensure that trailing cords does not pose a hazard, the use of over floor cord covers can be implemented.
    d) It was noted in the blog that there was no indication of the time frame of when the recommendation should have been met nor who was responsible for undertaking them.


  10. This blog examines the occupational risks identified by the carpentry department at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus. It identifies, through appropriate images and descriptions, some of the workplace practices and conditions that exist in that department that were not in line with proper occupational, health and safety guidelines. The author identified several hazards that were noted in department: physical hazards – an employee cutting wood without proper protective gear; temperature hazards – the carpenter’s workroom was apparently unbearably hot for the employees and fans were non-functioning while the windows were small and outdated; another hazard was an electrical extension cord extending across the walkway and broken electrical plugs filled with dust. These issues were highlighted and recommendations made to improve the environment for the employees. However, it was not all bad news because it was noted that the fire extinguisher in the department had been recently checked by the proper authorities. The blog clearly presented evidence of workplace occupational, health and safety infringements and underscored the importance of observing proper OSH guidelines in the workplace. The author encouraged workers to be aware of proper OSH practices for the workplace because in the final analysis an individual’s health and well-being should be their number one priority, because if an person is injured on the job due to poor OSH practices, they may die, be injured for life which then makes them incapable of earning an income to care for themselves and their family.


  11. Great piece. Enjoyed reading every minute of it . Glad to know that OSH are in good hands. We need more people in Trinidad and Tobago championing the cause.


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