OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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

 

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

 INTRODUCTION

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

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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.

 

 TEMPERATURE HAZARD

 

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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.

 

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard

 

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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

 

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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

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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.

Recommendations:

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

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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.

References:

  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

6.http://www.uh.edu/~jhansen/ITEC4350/GoetCh9.htm

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

8.http://www.aalhysterforklifts.com.au/index.php/about/blog-post/warehouse_safety_principles_6_key_guidelines_to_keep_your_workplace_safe

 

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

 


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10.0 Earthquake…Natural or Man-Made??

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