OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


Beasts of No Nation

 

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Introduction

Have you ever wondered (or actually experienced) what it’s like to be separated from your family and friends?  How about trying to escape persecution when death seems to be right at the foot of your door? Most people would, perhaps do whatever it takes to survive to see the faces of their loved ones once more.  This is the case for a young boy named Agu, played by Abraham Attah in the 2015 film entitled “Beasts of No Nation”.  For us- health and safety officers in training, this movie exposed a plethora of health and safety violations that, in reality if they occurred, would have resulted in much more serious consequences.  We were able to diagnose several health and safety breaches, along with multiple hazards and risks- both prominent and obscure in nature, and provide remedies on how to alleviate them.

Synopsis of Movie:     

The storyline begins with the outbreak of a civil war in an African country where young  Agu is forced to flee from his village after his family was torn apart by the troops of the National Reformation Council who have invaded their village.  After wandering around in the forest, he is found by a rebel army and is forced to become a child soldier in a bid to survive. The leader who is called Commandant (Idris Elba) orders training for Agu who learns to kill, use drugs and battle.  The Commandant begins to abuse his power and is then demoted by his superior.  After exhausting their resources of food, money and ammunition, the members decide to rebel against the Commandant in an attempt to leave the group.  They are then rescued by the United Nations troops and are taken to an ocean-side camp for rehabilitation.  There, Agu  receives counseling and  is able to socialize with other children and once again live a life he once knew.

Hazards Discovered

The hazards that we pinpointed in the movie fell under the categories of physical, ergonomic, psychological, biological, fire and chemical.  The specific hazards from the movie are identified and discussed, and recommendations for their alleviation are subsequently stated.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are defined as “factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.  Vibration and noise are examples of physical hazards.  Physical hazards include, but are not limited to electricity, radiation, pressure, noise, heights and vibration among many others” (Comcare 2016.)

With the ongoing war, grenades are randomly released from hovering helicopters over forested areas, as well as over the camp where Agu and his fellow members of the NDF are staying.  These explosives contribute to the destruction of infrastructure such as houses, villages, surrounding trees and animals. In addition, it results in physical injuries, death and often times initiates bush fires. Section 34 of The Occupational Safety and Health Act of Trinidad and Tobago (2004) as Amended (2006) addresses noise and vibration and states that adequate steps should be taken to prevent hearing impairment and disease caused by any such noise and/or vibration from occurring to persons.  It also highlights the duty of the employer to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn where mandatory.  

Another physical hazard seen in the movie is in one of the opening scenes where children are seen playing around the dilapidated area on which their school once stood.  There are sharp, dangerous objects that serve as risks, particularly to the young children who are running through the area and playing carefree without supervision. To safeguard the lives of the villagers, that area should have temporarily been quarantined to prohibit access to it, by way of warning signs, caution tape and/or appropriate fencing and the debris cleared up as soon as possible.  The children ought to be supervised by their parents and guardians to ensure their lives are not at risk and that they do not face any hazards.

Fierce gun battles and explosions result in a large projection of noise which can result in both immediate and cumulative impairment to hearing, particularly to very young children and the elderly.  An article entitled “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague” highlights seven adverse health effects of noise.  These include: hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular disturbances, disturbances in mental health, impaired task performance, and negative social behaviour and annoyance reactions.  All the members of the battalion under the instruction of the Commandant suffered from more than one of these negative effects to their health.  The character, Strika for instance who was already a member of the NDF when Agu joined never says a word in the movie, however, he is able to communicate in other ways.  Perhaps prolonged exposure to loud noises is what led him to have an impaired ability to speak.

During the war the men, who wore very minimal to no sort of personal protective equipment (PPE) were exposed to a lot of inevitable smoke and gunpowder inhalation which put them at great risk for respiratory illness.  According to Section 32 of The OSH Act, respiratory protection of an approved standard should be provided and maintained by use of all persons.  Therefore, the men should have been given appropriate equipment to support respiratory protection.

Within the village itself poverty is evident.  There exists dilapidated infrastructure, which previously sustained severe damage due to the raging warfare.  As such, the occupants and those in the vicinity of these buildings are most susceptible to getting injured.  The fallen houses present slip, trip and fall hazards due to the rubble left behind.

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Figure 1: Aftermath of an explosion in the village.

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Figure 2: Damaged houses and rubble as a result of warfare.

It was observed that the NDF soldiers did not have PPE, whereas the members of the other legions were fully outfitted in helmets, boots, gloves and army suits.  The only equipment and ammunition Agu and his fellow soldiers had was what they had stolen from opposing troops that they killed.  Despite this, there was still insufficient PPE for every member of the NDF to receive full protection.

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Figure 3: Agu and his NDF members without proper PPE.

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards are those hazards that harm the musculoskeletal system due to repetitive movement, improper handling of equipment, job or tasks or poor body positioning. (Australian Government- Comcare n.d.).

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Figure 4: Poor posture and body positioning to full the container with water

As displayed in Figure 4 above, we see a young boy bending to full water into a container.  In order to obtain water from this particular pipe, he has to pull up the lever and continuously push down to pump the water.  This continuous pumping action can cause strain and sprain to arms, shoulders and back. He then has to lift this container which is obviously too heavy for someone his size to be carrying, resulting in him appearing to be straining.  Instead, to transport the container of water, there is the option of someone greater in size who is capable of handling a heavier load should be carrying it, or two people can take turns carrying it, or perhaps two persons can share the weight and carry it together. 

Figure 5 below shows us that the boy has to bend in an awkward position to sweep because the broom is very short.  Bending at such an angle, for such a long period of time can result in back injuries due to the poor body positioning and posture required to carry out such a task.  To remedy this, it is recommended that a broom with a longer stick (preferably about the same length as the height of the individual) be used to avoid having to bend consistently.

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Figure 5: Poor posture and body positioning required to sweep ground

Moreover, there is a football scene in the movie where the guys are seen kicking and passing the ball to each other and aiming at the goal post.  This can result in injuries such as ankle sprains, strained or torn ligaments, and back and spinal injuries if, for instance, one of them is to fall.  This can lead to permanent disability if the injury sustained is severe.

Under The OSH Act, Section 35 1 states that an industrial establishment shall not be so overcrowded as to cause risk of injury to the health of the persons employed therein.  Violation of this was evident in the movie where we saw the soldiers getting a ride on the tray of vans.  The vehicle was over packed to the extent that the position required to sit while being transported could possibly lead to serious back injuries for the soldiers.  

Psychological Hazards

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.).  There is no denying that there were numerous psychological hazards which could have affected not only those who fought in the civil war, but also those who were forced to flee from their village and depart from their loved ones indefinitely.  

Shown in the Figure 6, is the devastated Agu when both his parents were taken away from him.  His mother had to leave the village to protect herself and her young children from danger, while her husband, older son and Agu had to stay behind to defend their village against the troops.

To add insult to injury, Agu witnesses both his father and older brother being shot dead right in front of him.  He then scampers off with his friend to escape the bullets.  Unfortunately, shortly after his friend is shot dead while running away.  Agu witnesses all these people he was once close to being executed within a couple of minutes.  Devastated indeed, this then led to Agu becoming emotionally distraught and frustrated due to the absence of both his parents from what appears to be his already challenging life.  Only now he must continue to face all the harsh realities that follow without the love and guidance of his loved ones.  According to developmental psychology at Vanderbilt, it is said that “a parent has the influence over the emotions of a child, where a parent’s emotional involvement is imperative to the outcome of the child’s emotional competence and regulation”.   Therefore, due to Agu’s parents being absent from his life, it has led him to become depressed, confused and feeling extremely alone at times.

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Figure 6 : Agu’s emotional reaction when his mother was leaving him behind in the village.

Figure 7 depicts Agu’s great friend “Strika” who, after surviving a long and hard battle eventually dies from sustaining a gunshot that was plunged into  his abdomen by their enemies.  Losing a dear friend can cause you to feel devastated and heartbroken.   Agu has lost a friend whom he has grown close to since he joined the force to battle the armed forces.  

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Figure 7 : The dead body  of “Strika” after being shot by the armed forces

Subsequently, Figure 8 shows where Agu is sent to a children’s home  after being rescued by the United Nations armed forces at the end of his gruesome battle.  During his stay at the home, he has a hard time transitioning from a life of war and tribulation back to a normal life that he once lived in his village.  At nights, he would experience traumatic nightmares. These included seeing images of guns and dead bodies around him.  It even got worse when he could have smelled the decaying body of those who were killed during the time of war, an experience no one would like to have in life.   These abnormal occurrences indicate that Agu may be suffering from a post traumatic stress disorder which is developed in some people who have experienced a shocking event in their life.  It consists of flashbacks of the events over and over, bad dreams and frightening thoughts, all of which was experienced by Agu (Bartok et al 2013).

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Figure 8 : Agu having nightmares at night when asleep

Biological Hazards

Biological hazards include sources of bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans. These biological hazardous sources can result in a number of health effects, from skin irritations to infections and even a far as death.  Figure 9 shows Agu helping his mother to prepare a meal.  As seen, the area where the storage and preparation of the food is being done is poorly kept and is not sanitized. This increases the possibility for rodents and other harmful animals to feed and also contaminate their food, as well as the risk for the family to become unwell.  Some of the major health risks involved with rodent or bacteria contamination include salmonella, gastroenteritis, diarrhea and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome collapsed.   According to The OSH Act, Part VI Health Section 31 which deals with cleanliness, it relates to this case where it was poorly observed.

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Figure 9: Agu helps his mother prepare a meal for their family.

In continuing with the biological hazards, a scene in the movie shows where the NDF’s food and water supplies are all used up.  They are subsequently forced to consume contaminated water.  Some men become very ill, while others died.   As shown in Figure 10 below, observations with regards to the soldiers wading through contaminated, murky waters also caught our attention.  When contaminated water comes into contact with the skin, bacteria can easily be transferred into the blood stream, which results in becoming unwell or even death.  Some of the major diseases that can be contracted through dirty water are cholera, hepatitis A, malaria and diarrhea.  According to The OSH Act Part VII Welfare, Sections 39, 42 and 43 there is mention for proper drinking water, accommodation for clothes and first aid equipment.  Neither of these were observed in this movie.

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Figure 10 : Soldiers wading through contaminated, murky waters out in the woods.

Fire Hazards

A fire hazard can be defined as conditions that favor fire development or growth.  There are three elements required to start and sustain a fire: oxygen, fuel and heat.  Since oxygen is naturally present in most earth environments, fire hazards usually involve the mishandling of fuel or heat.  Fire, or combustion, is a chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible fuel.  Combustion is the process by which fire converts fuel and oxygen into energy, usually in the form of heat (Michael Speegle- n.d.).  The products of combustion include light and smoke.  For the reaction to start, a source of ignition, such as a spark or open flame, or a sufficiently-high temperature is needed.  Given a sufficiently-high temperature, almost every substance will burn.  The ignition temperature or combustion point is the temperature at which a given fuel can burst into flames (Mapua Institute of Technology- n.d.).

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Figure 11 : Agu’s mother preparing a meal in the kitchen

In the Figure 11, it shows Agu’s mother preparing a meal in their kitchen.  However, due to the resources available to them, their kitchen poses a major fire hazard.  Without a source of fuel, there is no fire hazard. However, almost everything in our environment can be a fuel.  Fuels occur as solids, liquids, vapors and gases.

 In the image, it is evident that many solid fuels exist.  This is due to improper facilities and equipment.  The wood they use to cook is a source of fuel and, if left unattended, it can lead to their kitchen being engulfed in flames.

The burning down of the huts also poses as a fire hazard.  The direct or near contact with flame, also known as “thermal radiation” is obviously dangerous to humans.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that most people die in fires from suffocation or breathing smoke and toxic fumes (The Basics of Occupational Safety; Second Edition David L. Goetsch).

Chemical Hazards

There were a few chemical hazards that were evident throughout the movie.  Chemical hazards are caused by exposure to chemicals and other toxins in the environment that can become harmful and life-threatening to individuals.  The picture in Figure 12 below shows where bombs have exploded in the community where villagers, animals and infrastructure are located.  Explosions like this can be especially dangerous in areas where there are toxic chemical substances.  These substances can then be released into the atmosphere causing death or harm to humans and animals through explosions, or from inhalation or direct contact.

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Figure 12:  The explosions created by bombs in community areas 

Another chemical hazard is discovered at Agu’s home where the household products that are used can be hazardous if they are not properly secured or stored at the right temperature.  In Figure 13, Agu and his mother are preparing a meal.  On the left of the picture a yellow container is seen.  We are unsure if it contains a substance that can induce a chemical hazard, however, if it does contain toxic material it should be stored elsewhere, especially away from the young children who live in the home.  

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Figure 13:  Agu and his mother preparing a meal with the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals surrounding.

Conclusion

This report explores the various types of health and safety violations, hazards, and risks present in this exhilarating film.  Several recommendations on how to diminish these are also mentioned.  “Beasts of No Nation” has heightened our awareness to the treacherous risks and hazards that most people are not privy to.  We pose a challenge to you, readers of this blog to concern yourselves with the hazards and risks that are present in our everyday lives and to find ways to lessen them as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).  Risks and hazards are some of the beasts that endanger the lives of all nations; we must therefore, like the title of the movie, seek to make them the “Beasts of No Nation”. 

Works Cited

Beasts of No Nation. Dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga. Perf. Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Emmanuel         Affadzi.  N.p., 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“Developmental Psychology at Vanderbilt.”N.p.,n.d.Web.23 Oct.2016

“Ergonomic Hazards – Comcare – Home.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Goetsch, David L. The Basics of Occupational Safety. 2nd ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

Goines, Lisa, RN, and Louis Hagler, MD. “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague.” NoNoise.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

Mapúa Institute of Technology. “Fire or Combustion Is a Chemical Reaction between.” Course Hero. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

“Physical Hazards.” Comcare. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

“The Psychological Impact of Losing a friend to Suicide.” N.p.,n.d. Web. 23 Oct.2016

Speegle, Michael. “Safety, Health, and Environmental Concepts for the Process Industry 2nd Ed.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

 

 

 


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“Gas-ping for Safety at the Gas Station: An OSH Assessment”

 11.png                      Figure 1: National Petroleum gas station, Curepe, Trinidad.

 

As Trinbagonians most of us are guilty of the famous “God is ah Trini” attitude.

Hurricane coming?  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, God is ah Trini.”

Tsunami coming?  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, God is ah Trini.”

Food prices going up? All together now!  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, because why?  God is ah Trini!”

Sadly, this mentality has infiltrated our society and has led us to develop what we as Trinis consider a “doh care attitude” or “laid back attitude” with day to day affairs.

On arrival to the National Petroleum  gas station located at the ever-busy Curepe junction, Trinidad our OSH senses became immediately aroused when we noticed that one of the two service lanes was blocked off by a garbage bin, while only the other was in operation.

We approached a man who was presumably a worker, as we observed him assisting customers in filling their gas tanks.  He was clad in a regular jersey and jeans and not a uniform.

He said, “ Well yea ulyuh could go ahead and take ulyuh pictures and thing, but I ent answering no questions.  Ah could call the manager lady, she now reach.”  We assented.  As the group surveyed the area and took pictures, many areas of concern became apparent on the compound.

Physical Hazards

As the group surveyed the gas station from its front to its rear, it became substantially evident enough to conclude that there were many physical hazards due to negligence by the workers and the company itself.

Firstly, the gas station is poorly sheltered. We visited the gas station on a rainy day and observed that water covered the ground of the entire compound, causing some customers to slip.  See Figure 2 below.                                                      

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Figure 2: Gas station poorly sheltered          Figure 3: Parked motorbike blocking passage

Secondly, in Figure 3 above, we can see a motorbike parked up in the gas station while the driver was engaging in some chit-chat with the workers.  His motorbike is clearly parked in the pathway where vehicles pass to fill their tanks.  This poses a threat to both workers and customers.                

Also, as seen in Figure 4, the hose from the diesel pump lays carelessly in the roadway resulting in a trip hazard for both customers and workers.

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Figure 4: Diesel hose carelessly placed on the left  

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Figure 5: Demonstration of the protruding iron on the right

Moreover, at the back of the gas station there is a protruding length of iron which puts customers and workers at risk (Figure 5).
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Figure 6: Demonstration of the open manhole above.

Right in the heart of the gas station there is a large manhole just waiting for someone to fall into, or a vehicle becoming stuck in (see Figure 6).

Physical hazards are also present in the interaction with the the liquefied petroleum gas or liquid petroleum gas tanks (LPG or LP gas for short).  Typically, customers are asked to retrieve and carry their own LPG tanks to and from their vehicles or other means of transport, which carry an average weight of twenty pounds.  Sometimes though, the workers are asked to aid in the retrieval and carrying processes for customers who are physically unable to do so themselves.  In these two situations, there is the risk of crush and pinch injuries.  If the cylinder happens to slip and fall, prior to even making contact with the ground, it will land on a person’s foot, especially if they have a slower reaction time.  This can, in turn, lead to dismemberment of joints in the foot, usually on the person’s toes.  Consequently, until the technology to aid in the reduction of manual handling of the twenty-pound tanks is created, it is recommended that when having to deal with the LPG tanks you wear closed-toe boots that can eliminate the severe impact in cases where it slips, and additionally wear protective non-slip gloves that can shield your hands from pinches and slips.
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Figure 7: Accident at the site

Lastly, our group witnessed an accident involving a customer driving over a slab of concrete due to the absence of caution tape or other warning signs, prohibiting access to that particular area (Figure 7).  This comes without saying that this poses a threat to the lives of the workers and by extension, the public.

In an informal interview conducted with one of the workers, we asked whether they had any personal protective equipment (PPE) to which the response was simply, “Na we doh have no gloves an’ thing for the attendants.”  This is a serious hazard as gas and diesel fuel can easily leak onto the worker’s hands. For lack of assumption, flammable and combustible materials, such as gasoline, when placed in contact with heat or flame can ignite in less than a second!  For this reason, we suggest that when operating at fuel pumps, be extremely vigilant in ensuring that, in the event gasoline comes into contact with anything other than inside the gas tank, you wait for it to evaporate, or quickly wipe it away.

When asked whether there was any formal entry and exit points to the station the worker replied,  “Most people know to come in from one side and exit from the other, but some ah them does come in from the other side and want gas, too.”  The mere fact that there are neither formal entry and exit signs, nor speed bumps present on the compound pose a threat to workers as well as the public.  There exists the possible effect of collisions on the compound, resulting in damage not only to other vehicles and people but also to the service pumps which can in turn ignite a fire. Open  the link to view an example of a collision at a gas station:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybFanfXaSlU&index=15&list=PLD185CA6C7ACA4E45

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards refer to workplace conditions that constitute  risks to the musculoskeletal system of a person (The University of Chicago- Environmental Health and Safety n.d.).  During our visit, we identified a few ergonomic hazards that can lead to great bodily injury, not only to the employees at the service station, but also  to the public.  At the gas station, muscular strains can occur due to constant manual handling of the gas pumps, which require squeezing the lever inside the gas nozzle handle to initiate the pumping process.  Furthermore, the employees can experience back strains from repeatedly lifting the LPG tanks.  While we were there, we  observed a customer applying air to her tire. The poor body positioning and posture required to do this can in fact result in back injuries to the customer.  Also, we witnessed another customer kicking a bin that was placed at the center of the driveway. From doing this he could have suffered from a strained ligament or could have slipped causing further damage to not only his leg but back. Progressively, repeated exposure to risk factors such as those aforementioned can lead to traumatic and severe injury and disability.   

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 Figure 8: Customer applying air to her tire with bad posture

Psychological Hazards

According to Oscar Wilde, “ We live in the age of the overworked and under-educated, the age in which people are so industrious they become absolutely stupid”.  

Currently in Trinidad and Tobago, our society is plagued with employees who are constantly overworked on their job site.  This was evidently seen at the NP gas station, where workers endure horrendous working hours with exhausting tasks required of them. Furthermore, the stigma attached to someone working in a gas station as an attendant, or having any other position other than the manager proves to be quite daunting- to say the least.  

Psychological hazards can have a negative impact on workers’ behaviours on the job due to lack of motivation and esteem, leading to low levels of productivity.  Factors such as quality customer service, team cohesion and team building are affected due to employee-absenteeism and lack of participation.  High levels of employee turnover are also experienced.  

In an attempt to reduce employees being overworked and feeling less enthused while on the job, it is important that those at the top, such as managers recognize the stress and pressures felt by employees when they are given too many responsibilities.  Managers must devise ways to bring out the best in employees to motivate them and boost their esteem to ensure a job well done.  This can be as simple as treating employees as more of an asset to the organization by showing appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

Regardless of how tough, strong and resilient you think you are, at the end of the day,  we are all humans, and as such employers should refrain from viewing them as machines. There’s a limit to how much we can push ourselves physically, yet our emotional endurance can be pushed a lot further.  It’s important to know your limits by means of working SMART.  You’re no good to anyone, least of all yourself if you’re not in top mental and physical condition.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards can be defined as substances, mixtures and particles that are used in the workplace that can be a health or physicochemical hazard if not handled or stored correctly (“Safe Work SA”).  We noted a number of chemical hazards during our visit to the NP gas station that put employees, the public and the environment at risk.  

Direct contact with toxic chemical emissions, such as gasoline and diesel,  in cases where they are either inhaled through the nose or absorbed by the skin are accountable for threats to human health, such as critical respiratory issues and even death.

What is commonly known as the “rainbow effect” could be seen on the ground of the gas station’s compound post the downpour (Figure 9).  This in fact is due to the mixing of the oil/gas spills on the ground combining with the water to form a film on the surface of the water. As beautiful as these “rainbows” may appear, in actuality these spills are flammable and can trigger a fire at any time, causing damage not only to the physical components of the station, but also to surrounding infrastructure and injury and loss of human life.   

In addition to fires, further harm can be experienced since the gas pumps are without shelter and are exposed to the elements, like wind, dust and (rain) water.  If water enters the pumps and mixes with the fuel, substances such as benzene (C6H6), due to its solubility in water, may be removed by rain to contaminate surface waters and soil, even causing extensive adverse health effects such as cancer and aplastic anaemia.

To read more interesting facts about benzene visit: http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/benzene.pdf

In an attempt to reduce these risks as low as reasonably practical (ALARP), the service station should have adequate shelter and protection from the elements, a zero-tolerance policy for smoking on the premises should be implemented, as well as employees and management should be educated on the effects of certain substances.

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     Figure 9: The “Rainbow Effect” due to gas leaks/spills from pumps

Additionally, although the hoses from the fuel dispensers are classified as  physical hazards, they can simultaneously be classed as a form of chemical hazard that give rise to life-threatening occurrences.  We observed that the hoses were laying negligently on the path of the service lane where vehicles were passing.  Failure to secure the hoses properly can encourage vehicles to roll over them and unknowingly burst/damage the pipes causing gasoline and diesel to emerge from them which can lead to fires and/or explosions due to the flammable nature of these substances.

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Figure 10: Hose being left carelessly on the ground

Fire Hazard

Fire hazards are conditions that favour fire development or growth. Three elements are required to start and sustain fire:

  1.   Oxygen
  2.   Fuel
  3.   Heat

Since oxygen is naturally present in most earth environments, fire hazards usually involve the mishandling of fuel or heat.  Fire, or combustion, is a chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible fuel.  Combustion is the process by which fire converts fuel and oxygen into energy, usually in the form of heat.  The products of combustion include light and smoke.  For the reaction to start, a source of ignition, such as a spark or open flame, or a sufficiently-high temperature is needed.  Given a sufficiently-high temperature, almost every substance will burn.  The ignition temperature or combustion point is the temperature at which a given fuel can burst into flames.

After performing a risk assessment at the NP gas station, Curepe there were several fire hazards identified. These comprised:

1)      Smoking (cigarettes) (Figure 11)

2)      Improper safeguarding of extension cords (Figure 12)

An interview with a worker revealed that many people mistakenly come into the gas station smoking, despite “No Smoking” signs are displayed, resulting in her having to remind them that the gas station is a no smoking zone.  This simple act of negligence can lead to a fire at the station.  

Also, in conducting our assessment, we noticed that there was improper placement of an extension cord, which was looped around a bar on the ceiling, containing a string of lights (Figure 12) .  This can induce an overloaded circuit, cause the cord itself to become damaged and lead to overheating and act as a possible source of electrical shock and electrical fire.  The main resolution for this issue regarding the extension cord is that it should not be substituted for permanent wiring in the first place.  

To learn more about safety tips with reference to extension cords you can visit: http://www.esfi.org/resource/extension-cord-safety-tips-478

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Figure 11: A customer smoking on the gas station’s premises which is strictly prohibited

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Figure 12: Improper safeguarding of extension cords

Biological Hazards

During our evaluation at the site, two biological hazards were obvious:

  1. Improper urinals and drainage system:

Both the disposal of the waste deposited in them and the gasoline spillage on the ground run directly into the drains (Figure 13 and Figure 14 below).  Although a small quantity of gasoline was spilled, during the rainy weather, with poor drainage, the now contaminated water runs directly into waterways.

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Figure 13: Urinal contents flowing into the drains     Figure 14: Gas spills flowing into drains

2)  Breakdown of gasoline and its health hazards:

Gasoline, a transparent, liquid derived from petroleum contains two main chemicals: benzene (C6H6) and other known carcinogens.  Carcinogens do not directly affect DNA, but lead to cancer in other ways.  For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances of changes to DNA.   Note that not all carcinogens result in cancer.   Many factors have to be taken into consideration- length and intensity of the exposure.

When humans come into contact with both carcinogens and benzene they experience a range of acute and long-term health effects and diseases, including cancer, death if consumed  and aplastic anemia.

With regards to the improper drainage of the urinal directly into the waterway, the risk of getting a life threatening disease is not as high as the case above.  However, health risks do arise when human waste contaminates waterways.  Humans don’t necessarily get direct contamination but the water bodies that farmers use to water plants do, which in turn is consumed by humans and animals.  This is predominantly when humans come into contact with the factors that cause health risks.

Helpful Links:

Service Station Safety Tips:

http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/property-type-and-vehicles/vehicles/service-station-safety/service-station-safety-tips

Do’s and Don’ts at the Pump: A Gas Station Safety Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5K-HjUPsKA&spfreload=10   

Conclusion

All things considered, this report introduced us to many health and safety violations which can be applied to different situations in our day to day lives.  This blog highlighted the areas of physical, ergonomic, psychological, chemical and biological hazards and their detrimental effects. We urge you, readers of this blog, to be alert and pay attention to hazards of your surroundings.  Greater level of awareness to such hazards is necessary to facilitate improvements and to reduce these risks ALARP so that we can all live our healthiest and safest lives. No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take the time to perform our work safely.

Works Cited

Eduardodiashealth. “Dos and Don’ts at The Pump. Gas Station Safety Video.” YouTube.       YouTube, 2008. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“Exposure to Benzene: A Major Public Health Concern.” N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Wluk. “Gas Station Accident.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 June 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.

“Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.” Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.

“Service Station Safety.” NFPA –. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“The Dangers of Overwork Are Hard to Ignore.” The Dangers of Overwork Are Hard to Ignore. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“The University of Chicago.” Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Chicago. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.