OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


“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


Is a diamond worth your life???

Image 1- Movie Poster - Blood Diamond

Image1: Movie poster – Blood Diamond Oct 03 2015
Watch it now: http://putlocker.is/watch-blood-diamond-online-free-putlocker.html

The movie “Blood Diamond”, challenges the modern standards of health and safety as set out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). It begins with the true story of a fisherman, Solomon Vandy who is enslaved and forced to work in the violent underground Diamond industry in Sierra Leone where the Diamonds were used to finance the warlords’ violent crimes and purchase guns and ammunition. Separated from his family Solomon is forced to use his wits to survive and reunite his broken and scattered family. The movie revolved around extremely dangerous and dehumanizing conditions, all for the possession of diamonds. It was a time when the country was torn apart by insurgent forces who wanted to discourage voting by the citizens loyal to the government . In this movie, Solomon and other enslaved workers are exposed to many occupational safety and health issues as they worked in an unregulated diamond industry. Headlining hazardous issues are of the biological, physical, ergonomic and psychological nature. According to Part two of the act, “General Duties” of employers to their employees, workers have the right to a safe workplace and the diamond industry in Sierra Leone is anything but safe.

Biological hazards

The daily exposure to blood and air-borne pathogens transmitted via blood spatter and bodily fluids seeping into the earth from the workers who have been shot or butchered for sport or for refusing to comply with the “warlord’s” requests, represents a direct violation of part four of the act “Health”, which speaks to the employer about taking measures to ensure and maintain optimal health and safety of employees and visitors to their facility. In addition, fecal matter mixes with the drinking water, as workers are forced to relieve themselves “in the bushes” due to the lack of sanitary facilities. The squalid conditions in these damp, wet mining rebel camps are the conditions that workers throughout the entire movie face from start to end. We see evidence of these conditions in the cities, overloaded with refuse and people, dirty streets and filthy crowded prisons. As many are forced to work in the rivers of Sierra Leone looking for diamonds we see a situation “ripe” for an outbreak of communicable and infectious diseases.

In the forests, insect bites are common; we see the anti-hero, diamond smuggler Denny Archer with bites on his forearms in one scene. Malaria vaccinations, in fact any form of inoculations would be the best form of protection against diseases spread by insects in this situation, yet we see no one thinking or caring about the welfare of workers in this industry.

Physical hazards, ergonomic hazards

There is the concern too that the condition of the workers bodies with having to participate in repetitive bending for long periods to retrieve the diamonds from the contaminated water or from digging presented ergonomic hazards. Ergonomic hazards tend to cause injury, strain and physical stress to the body: OSHA stipulates that at least a one hour rest period should be granted.
Image 2 Ergonomic HazardsImage 3 Ergonomic Hazards

Images 2 and 3: Ergonomic hazards Oct 03 2015

Also depicted in the movie were the long hours of work in blistering sunlight that the workers were forced to endure. These conditions can result in loss of consciousness, sunburns and dehydration causing physical harm to their bodies. These workers have had all their basic rights stripped away from them and have been afforded no protection. According to OSHA, Section 23 subsections (1) and (2) states employers must provide their employees with the basic Proper Protective Equipment (P.P.E) in order for them to perform their jobs properly.

Psychological hazards

Image 4 Psychological hazards

Image 4: Psychological hazards Oct 03 2015

As defined by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, workplace violence is depicted as acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression. We see that in the movie, the ruthless rebel warlord charged with overseeing one section of the workforce created a psychological hazard for the workers. He was seen with a gun and a cutlass at all times, shouting at the workers and threatening to kill them if they did not continue working, made any attempt to escape, or if they stole any of the diamonds. View the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eThlmx7w9r0

Workplace violence or workplace stress as experienced by the workers, are real occurrences that take place within institutions affecting employees, clients, customers and visitors. They are mainly associated with workplace issues such as excessive workload, lack of control and/or respect. Many workers run the risk of developing work related stress, created within a stressful environment. Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them, so these ‘hazards’ or ‘stressors’ over a period tend to cause stress, either (short-term effects) and strain (long-term effects).

Young Workers

Image 5 A young worker

Image 5: A young worker Oct 03 2015

Another major issue seen in the movie was child slavery and this is highlighted as a breech within the OSH Act. These young workers are subjected to long hours just as the adults, undergoing physically challenging tasks such as digging with heavy shovels or carrying bags of gravel which can leave them hurt or in pain. In South African mining operations, children perform the most dangerous activities such as entering narrow mine-shafts or descending into pits where landslides may claim their lives. As part of the OSH regulations, the Act clearly outlines Section 9 subsection 53 and 54 (1) Conditions for young persons and lists that any employer who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence. Unfortunately, many places still do not abide by these regulations so adult and child slavery goes unabated.

Recommendations in the movie

Comparing this movie to the Trinidad and Tobago OSH Act, had this situation been set in a regulated industry, recommendations could have been made for the employer to put up warning signs clearly that all employees are expected to wear the proper P.P.E. necessary for the job i.e boots to protect their feet from being cut by stones and other debris, gloves to protect their hands and respiratory equipment be provided. The employer would have also been advised to conduct an annual risk assessment and to make improvements where they are found lacking, which would be used to create a written manual or exposure control plan.

Of all the information provided, there should be a listing of the hazards that an employee would expect to be exposed to and how to protect themselves from each type of hazard. The employer would also be advised against the dangers of mutilating their potential and existing employees – without a first aid kit or even a medic on site. Listing job descriptions for each category of worker would also be undertaken being mindful of the health needs of their young workers in order to be in compliance with the act.

As regards sanitary conveniences; an outhouse should have been built away from the water’s edge to prevent re-contamination of the water. Water containers for washing of hands and drinking and signs are visible to remind the employees to wash their hands after using the outhouses. The ‘warlord’ would have also gone through training, in order to communicate to workers better.

Diamonds may be forever, but they are not to be substituted for the lives of others.

For more information, click on these links……..

Blood Diamond Documentary Website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bzMrxVwl74 .Published Jun 19, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
Blood Diamond photo gallery. website http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450259/mediaindex?page=1&ref_=ttmi_mi_sm Retrieved September 30, 2015.
Blood Diamond. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Diamond_(film) Retrieved October 1, 2015.

Jorgustin, Ken, “how long to boil drinking water”. modern survival blog.com
Website: http://modernsurvivalblog.com/health/how-long-to-boil-drinking-water/ June 5, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
Major problems facing Sierra Leone today. AfricaW and Africa and the world .Website: http://www.africaw.com/major-problems-facing-sierra-leone-today Retrieved September 30, 2015
Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act of 2004, Amended by 3 of 2006. http://www.rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt/laws2/alphabetical_list/lawspdfs/88.08.pdf Retrieved October 2, 2015
“Psychosocial hazards”. Australian Government Comcare. Website; http://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/psychosocial_hazards. Page last updated: 02 Apr 2014. Retrieved October 2, 2015.