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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Safety analysis of self-employed persons and recommendations for improvements.

Risk Reduction Regime embarked on a risk analysis of various self-employed persons and made recommendations that were not emphasized in The OSH Act of T& T as amended (2006.) According to the act, “self-employed person” means an individual who works for gain or reward otherwise than under a contract of employment, whether or not he himself employs others. The law states:

“7(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment, who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their safety or health.

(2) It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons, not being his employees, who may be affected by his actions are not thereby exposed to risks to their safety or health.

(3) In such cases as may be prescribed, it shall be the duty of every employer and every self- employed person, in the prescribed circumstances and in the prescribed manner, to give to persons, not being his employees, who may be affected by the way in which he conducts his undertaking, the prescribed information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertaking as might affect their safety or health.” (OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT CHAPTER 88:08 Act 1 of 2004 Amended by 3 of 2006 2006)

Provisions under this section only give a generalized guideline to the self-employed persons to conduct his undertaking in such a way that would not bring harm to himself or anyone else in within his space of operations or affairs. However, it should be noted that, for self-employed persons, they themselves are the employees and thus provisions under the Act regarding duties and requirements for employees concerning safety, health, and welfare should apply to them.           

Another point to note is that workplaces and employers with less than five (5) employees are not required by law to have a physical safety policy available, and thus this means that the safety of the self-employed person lies on himself. This is then reflected when persons are going to apply for registration of their business, with the only requirements being forms of identification and a valid business name, and nothing of proof of assurance of safety in their conduct. An area of concern that should have more attention paid to it is that most self-employed persons and small businesses have young persons or untrained workers in their employment and most times no real care or due diligence is taken by their employers for their health, safety, or well being. This then leads to the speculation and assumption that self-employed persons are liable for their own safety, health, and welfare, which then should be reflected in their own conduct and culture.

What is a Risk Assessment?

An examination of what in the work place could “cause harm to persons, to enable to decide whether to take sufficient precautions to prevent harm. The aim of an assessment is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.”(A Guide to Risk Assessment 2008)

There are five steps used to assess risks in the workplace:

  1. “Look for the hazards.
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done.
  4. Record your findings.
  5. Review your assessment and revise it if necessary” (A Guide to Risk Assessment 2008)

For the risk assessment the group looked at four self-employed persons and the analysis are as followed:

Wood Work Shop Analysis

Background of business and individual

Mr. Gow is a retired worker of the power industry of Trinidad and Tobago who has established a wood working business behind his house. The business is solely operated and not registered. Mr. Gow is highly trained in various safety procedures and use of personal protective equipment and has extensive knowledge on operating dangerous machinery.

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Woodwork: Image 1: Table with tools

   

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Woodwork: Image 2: Some protective gear

The above images shows various PPE used. Special gloves, face, eye and hearing protection as well as a head lamp is utilized. The image also shows a full body coverall to protect against flying wood chips, as well as thick rubber boots to protect the feet from any falling debris. The use of a powerful search light allows work to be done in well-lit areas. An important item that is also noted is a push stick. This is used to operate various saws and acts as an extended arm.

Mr. Gow has admitted in an interview that he practices very safe and careful working procedures and does not allow anyone to enter the workshop during work hours. He also states that he works in full PPE at all times.

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Woodwork: Image 3: Clutter at the workplace

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Woodwork: Image 4: Dangerous equipments used in daily operations

The images above show some of the materials and equipment that is interacted with on a daily basis. The woodworking machinery regulations states there must be a sufficient clear and unobstructed space at every woodworking machine

The below images shows the general workshop

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Woodwork: Image 5: The entire work space

The floor surrounding every woodworking machine shall be maintained in good and level condition, and as far as practicable, according to the woodwork machinery regulations. It was evident that Mr. Gow practice safe working conditions, from the risk assessment his work space contains many hazards.

Step 1

The ground contains many planks that may cause Mr. Gow to lose his footing. There are tools and electrical cords scattered around carelessly which may cause tripping. A vital breach of the OSH Act is the presence of saw dust on the ground which can cause individuals to slid

Step 2

Mr. Gow is the only candidate to be harmed since he lives with his wife, who doesn’t come into the workshop. Mr. Gow delivers all his products which means no customers enter the workshop.

Step 3

The main risk that exists is the risk of slipping or tripping due to the states of the walking area. Even though Mr. Gow wears shoes with grips he may still trip over a loose cord, tool or sawdust. He can damage himself slightly by falling onto the ground or suffer a major causality if he falls onto a machine that is currently in operation.

Recommendations

The main recommendation that can be put forward is to properly organize the walk way either by casting it with concrete so it can be flat or to level it with dirt and place metal gratings for added grip.

Doctor’s Office Analysis

A risk assessment was carried out at a doctor’s office.  The office services the small community of El Socorro and environs. Office days and time are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8am to 12pm. The office space consists of three room a waiting area the doctor’s office and a toilet facility occupying a combined space of 24’ x 28’. There is a total of two staff work in this office, a doctor and a receptionist. 

Hazards Identified:

Biological

A large percentage of the patients present themselves with communicable diseases that can be spread by air droplets from coughing and sneezing. These patients pose a risk to other patients as well as staff.

Physical

The center decor in the waiting room is a very low lying chandelier, 5 feet 7 inches of the ground which can cause injury if someone is taller than this. In the case of a fire, both doors, the entrance and emergency exit, are located on the same wall. One door is glass and the other is wooden which can easily be caught a fire. There exist three burglar proof windows which have no emergency openings. Documents such as company receipts for the year, for tax purposes, are kept in a brown envelope and an organizer.

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Doctor’s Office: Image 1: Chandelier that is a physical hazard

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Doctor’s Office: Image 2:Important documents stored near to area with no emergency exits

Health and Safety Practice on a day to day basis:

Staff are kept up-to-date with vaccines to prevent acquiring infections such as chicken pox and influenza.  Personal protective equipment such as gloves, mask and gowns must be used to protect doctor and staff when performing minor surgeries. All waiting room chairs are ergonomically design to prevent back pains. There is a ramp for patients on wheelchairs to ensure easy accessibility. Patients with mental disabilities can pose a hazard towards other patients and staff therefore they may be seen as soon as possible. Drug addicts can be a threat to staff as well as patients because of their addiction to narcotics and various other drugs. Therefore, dangerous drugs and antibiotics are kept locked away in a secure hidden safe in compliance with the dangerous drug act. Needles and other medical waste are placed in specialized containers for weekly pick up to send to the appropriate the facility to ensure proper disposal.

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Doctor’s Office: Image 3: Ergonomic hazard for patients

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Doctor’s Office: Image 4: Proper signage at the office

Recommendations

All important documents including receipts and company files should be kept in a fire proof safe. To avoid physical injury, a decor table should be placed under the chandelier so people can walk around it to avoid injuring their heads. Patients who have symptoms of the flu should be quickly identified and provided with a NI 95 face mask. The wooden door should be replaced with a fireproof door as well as moved to another wall. One burglar proof window should have an emergency opening and locks and keys that can be easy located when needed.

A Carpenter’s Analysis

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Carpenter: Image 1: The workplace for roofing works

Randy Jorai is a self-employed mason and roof builder in the community of South Oropouche. His jobs include building and renovations on homes and also doing roofs for pretty much and structure that demands one. The mason part of his job is done by himself whereas the roofing part is done with a small crew of about five persons. His businesses are not registered so the OSH act does not apply to him and his workers.

The most serious and life threatening hazards on his jobs are mechanical and falling hazards. On the mason side of his job objects such as saws can pose tears and cuts to the body if not handled correctly, if the equipment is faulty or if minimum or no safety equipment is used. When doing roofing the galvanize sheets being used are very sharp and can tear the skin quite easily. The risk of this happening is further increased when the sheets need to be transported to heights for installation. Ladders are used most of the times so the risk of not only falling arises but falling and cuts to the body are the risks they take doing this. Falling objects from heights is another falling hazard when working on top of houses, workers who are working below them are at risk of falling objects such as tools and materials.

Slip and fall along with stump and fall hazards were present according to Randy. “Sometimes when a little rain fall we still have to do the work on the roof” is what he told me and this presents a slip and fall hazard as most of the roofs they do are slanted so walking on it is more difficult. He also told me that an incident occurred where the oil they used to service some of their tools had leaked on to the roof when the galvanize sheets was put down and caused one of the worker to slip and fall. Fortunately, he was able to hold on to a beam and avoided falling off the house and escaped with just a few cuts.

More on the mason side of his job lifting hazards arise where there are heavy materials to be used on the jobsite. He does his masonry work by himself so there is no help for him to move materials and tools. Back injuries can occur as a result of lifting heavy objects with improper lifting techniques such as cement bags, steel beams and concrete blocks. These are materials Randy frequently uses because most of his work deals with mixing concrete and plastering walls. The dust from the cement bags and as a result of plastering walls can cause respiratory diseases if inhaled constantly and for long periods of time.

Randy gets his work by referrals from people who he did work for before and persons who know him. As his businesses are small and not registered it is not governed by the OSH act he does not have to abide by the laws of the act. Nobody is liable for when any injury occurs on the jobsite and in an interview with Randy he told me that his work sites are mostly houses and the people who he works for often do not have any tools, just materials for the job.  So therefore he and his crew are responsible for any injuries sustained due to misused or defective equipment. Also any safety equipment that may be needed for the job will have to be provided by them and according to him they barely use such equipment. He told me that they frequently take risks because they have no training in health and safety and also because doing things the way they do often lead to the job finishing quicker which is desirable because he is paid for the whole job and not by the day. This means that no matter how long he takes on a job his salary and that of his crew when working with him will be the same so time is a factor for him maximising profits. Refusal to work as seen in the OSH act is another benefit Randy and his crew does not have. If he or one of his workers is concerned about an unsafe working condition, they do not have the option to call OSHA and request and inspector and refuse to work with pay. Similarly, if any injury is sustained while working Randy or any of his co-workers will not get sick leave with pay. Randy actually sustained an injury where he was cut on this thumb by a grinder and was unable to work for two weeks and this resulted in him not being paid for two weeks.

Seeing as these two businesses do not fall under the OSH act Randy and his crew are responsible for their own safety. They can better do this by making sure all their tools and machinery are maintained and used properly with the necessary protective gear. Dust masks to be worn when working with cement or dusty areas can reduce the risk of contracting respiratory diseases.

Recommendations

Correct use of ladders when climbing (3 points on ladder at all times). Wearing slip resistant footwear on jobsites especially when climbing and walking on galvanize (to avoid slip and fall). Hard hats to be worn when working in areas where objects may fall. Keeping areas where workers are passing clear of objects that could lead to trip and fall. Avoiding working on roofs when galvanize is wet

Barber’s Shop Analysis

A self-employed barber residing in the Rio Claro area was visited and interviewed regarding the conduct of his daily business and his attitude towards his safety and the safety of others.

Throughout the interview it was noted that the person was twenty-seven (27) years old, possesses six (6) O’level subjects from Presentation College, San Fernando, and had been conducting his business on a small scale from an age of sixteen (16) with an average of six (6) hours of operation, until five (5) years ago when he decided to make it a full-time job. Health and safety did not become a priority until this became his full-time job, where it still was not first on his list.

First, a needs assessment was conducted to ascertain what was required to be able to conduct his business on a full-time scale with good capability and comfort as far as was affordable, practicable, and necessary; this refers to tools and other equipment necessary for operation. Secondly, care was given regarding his welfare and the welfare of others within his vicinity and area of operation; a clean environment, comfortable seating for his use as well as his customers, ventilation, and lighting. He then conducted a general risk assessment to the best of his knowledge and understanding which was mainly learned through experience, and came up with suitable, practicable, and more notably affordable solutions that were within his capability.

This was the mentality and culture of this self-employed person regarding his safety and wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of others, at the start of his business and operations even before thinking about registering his business. It was stated by him that his knowledge of his health, safety, and welfare was acquired through experience, suggestions, and recommendations, in lieu with his own morals, values, and respect for himself as well as others.

A dust bin solely for the disposing of hair can be seen (Welfare of others in his workplace.).

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Barbershop: Image 1: Trip hazard, cords are not properly secured

(He actually cleans his station and floor from floor after every person’s hair he cuts.)

Proper, suitable, appropriate signage.

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Barbershop: Image 2: Proper signs for customers

Appropriate, suitable lighting necessary for operation.

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Barbershop: Image 3: Suitable lighting for operations

Clean, organized workstation. PPE (latex gloves) suitable for operation can be seen as well.

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Barbershop Image 4: Using protective gloves while cleaning work space

This then lead to the conclusion that without a board of directors and department of safety, legal guidelines and requirements, or even written safety policies, it is the duty of a person to his own safety, health, and welfare, which is a reflection of his knowledge, education, experience, morals, values, and culture, as well as others around him, coupled with the willingness to improve and learn.

Recommendations

Continuous monitoring of safety hazards that may cause harm to the barber and clients. Ensure electrical wires are properly secured to avoid trip and fire hazards. Ensure proper sanitation of equipment and disposal of hair and other waste. A dusk mask should be worn to prevent the inhalation of fine hair particles. There should be ten minutes interval of seating for every ten hour standing

Recommendations by Risk Assessment for the Health and Safety Board for Self Employed Persons

Based on the risk assessments conducted on these various self-employed persons, the group made some recommendations for consideration by the Health and Safety Board.

  • Have awareness raising programs.
  • Engage in outreach programs (exhibitions, lectures, workshops, promotion materials, advertisements etc.)
  • Consultation programs for all self-employed persons.
  • Safety Officers be assigned by districts to conduct routine checks on self – employed businesses to ensure they are adhering to certain safety precautions.
  • The safety act should be amended with more laws and emphasis towards self-employed persons.
  • A sub unit should be established for the monitoring of the Small and Micro enterprises and the functions can be clearly outlined in a clause in the act.

References

  1. A Guide to Risk Assessment. Version 2. Prod. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency of Trinidad and Tobago. August 2 . Accessed October 22, 2016.
  2. “OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT CHAPTER 88:08 Act 1 of 2004 Amended by 3 of 2006.” 88:08.pdf. Accessed October 22, 2016. http://rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt/laws2/alphabetical_list/lawspdfs/88.08.pdf


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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.


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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


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THE FLOODING IS IMMINENT!

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Flood_Insurance_full  One to two hours of rainfall raises this question about life in Trinidad and Tobago: Would you rather have perfect beach weather, blazing hot sun and a dry yard? Or rain, and a soggy carpet? Again.

For the past few years, it seems as though this problem is getting worse. We can no longer sit back and enjoy the soothing sound of the rain beating against the windows or the delectable smell after the rains cool the blistering asphalt after a long day or week of sweltering sunshine. Now, we scramble to make sure nothing valuable is near the floor and no electronics are plugged in and out of reach of the disaster that we know is coming.

So, what is flood? Many of us have this idea that floods or flooding is simply, too much water around your house. People think that can be fun. Wrong! Flooding is a lot more than that. Flooding is extremely dangerous and has the potential to wipe away an entire city, coastline or area, and cause extensive damage to life and property. It also has great erosive power and can be extremely destructive, even if it is a foot high.

There are many types of flooding that can occur:

 Riverine Flooding – This usually occurs when a river overflows its banks. It is usually due to the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, exceeding its capacity and overflowing its banks. It can also occur when the velocity of the river is so high that it flows right out of the river channel, usually at bends. We typically see this kind of flooding at the Caroni River and Basin. (pictured below)

caroniriver

Coastal Flooding –  The sea can overflow flood defences such as sea walls, due to a heavy storm,  a high tide, a tsunami or a combination thereof. Trinidad and Tobago recently experienced a devastating example of this when the Manzanilla/Mayaro sea wall was thundered and topped over by raging sea waters, taking the road with it.

Flash flooding – This is a flood that rises and falls rapidly with little or no advance warning. Flash floods usually result from intense rainfall over a relatively small area. This is the category of flooding that regularly  occurs throughout Trinidad and Tobago, particularly the Port of Spain and the University of the West Indies. (south gate at the UWI below)

south gate

Urban flooding –  This occurs as a result of land development. Permeable soil layers are being replaced by impermeable paved surfaces, through which water cannot infiltrate. This leads to greater runoff being generated, which can make rivers out of roadways and ponds out of car parks. Once again, we see this type of flooding in Port of Spain (pictured below). Since the capital is made up mostly of reclaimed land, the sea and rivers have been redirected. However, that can’t stop them forever.

urbanflooding

When parts of the country flooded again and again, some looked to the hills, blaming deforestation on the elevated regions for the floods in the low-lying areas. Some focused on the drains, pointing fingers at the failure to maintain clear watercourses . There are many areas in the region that may be prone to severe flooding especially those areas where drainage is poor and dumping of rubbish is rampant.

Because of this the society is exposed to numerous risks of such flooding including a major health risk and hazard.  But what really causes the constant invasion by flood waters? Is it just one problem or a combination of many? Floods can stem from a number of events both natural and human made, including:

Prolonged and Heavy Rainfall.- When rain falls for a prolonged period of time, the soil can become saturated. When water is unable to infiltrate into the saturated soil, it is forced to flow over the soil, thus increasing surface runoff.  When rain falls heavily; the rain drops hit the ground with a force. This can cause the rain drops to bounce off the soil instead of infiltrating into the soil. The water from the rain is then forced to flow over the surface instead, thus increasing the surface runoff.

Deforestation – The lack of vegetation encourages water to flow over the surface rather than infiltrate into the soil thus increasing surface runoff. We see cases of this on a day to day basis. Whenever we drive to Maracas, past the Northern Range, there are clear signs of deforestation on the hilltops, which are being used for quarrying or urbanization (pictured below).

deforestation north

Poor land use practices – Slash and burn agriculture, over-cultivation and over-grazing eventually cause the soil to become infertile and unable to sustain vegetative growth. Consequently, the lack of green cover encourages water to flow over the surface rather than infiltrate into the soil. The Caroni plains is perhaps the best example of over-cultivation. From being used to grow sugar cane for a number of years, to now being used for rice and other produce (pictured below).

caroni plains

Urbanization – This leads to the replacement of permeable soil with that of an impervious layer of pitch and concrete, through which water cannot infiltrate. This results in increased surface runoff which leads to flash flooding.

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Improper waste disposal– Oftentimes, garbage that is not properly disposed enters into drainage systems and clogs drains. This obstructs the free flow of the water that enters into these drains causing water to back up during rainfall flooding the surrounding area. A build up of garbage can also obstruct the natural flow of water in rivers and streams. Trinidadians seem to have a blatant disrespect for the environment, this can be seen by the hoards of rubbish that line the streets, river, streams daily. We see drivers throwing garbage out their vehicles on the highway and then wonder why our country floods every time a bit of rain falls (pictured below).

waste

Quarrying  – This is the clearing of land for the removal of aggregates (mainly sand and gravel) which is to be utilized in the construction industry. The action of quarrying leaves land bare and devoid of any trees and shrubs hence increasing surface runoff produced. This is not a new occurrence in Trinidad and Tobago. It seems as though there is a quarry everywhere we turn.  Toco, Arima, Matura, Valencia and Santa Cruz just to name a few of the locations. – Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management

The Trinidad Express composed an article within which they interviewed the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute and its executive director. The article consisted of the causes of flooding in Trinidad and Tobago over the last 40 years. They noted “Data collected over a span of 40 years by the Meteorological Office at Piarco has shown that there has been no significant change in the volume of water, measured in inches, that falls year round. CARDI’s executive director, Arlington Chesney, said this data highlights the need for a proper development policy.  “What has changed isn’t the rainfall, it’s our land management,” Chesney said during a recent interview.  “It’s the same volume of water but, in many instances, it simply has nowhere to go and we get the level of flooding we have been seeing in recent years.”

Unchecked housing developments, the changing of water courses and denudation  of the hills are among the causes cited for the poor drainage and flooding being experienced around the country during heavy rainfall. “

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Poor_drainage__not_rain__blamed_for_floods-145709225.html

Where there’s flood, there’s dirty water and where there’s dirty water, there are many risks involved. Flooding brings about a whole catalogue of chemical, physical, electrical, psychological and biological hazards. Biological hazards can come in the form of infections due to bacteria that causes diseases and viruses. Flooding poses risks to people’s health and well-being. It causes a vast number of illnesses, and waterborne diseases such as- cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid. It even leads to an increase in the amount of mosquitoes spreading malaria and other fatal illnesses.

Our drinking water may also be contaminated with various pollutants such as sewage, human and animal waste, and poisonous substances like oil, insecticides and other industrial chemicals. When persons consume this water they are susceptible to the waterborne disease which are very dangerous to life.

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Escherichia that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning and are occasionally responsible for product recalls due to food contamination.
  • Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS
  • Leptospirosis – an infectious bacterial disease occurring in rodents, dogs, and other mammals, which can be transmitted to humans.
  • Shigellosis – an intestinal disease caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella. The main sign of shigella infection is diarrhea, which often is bloody. Shigella can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool.
  • Skin Infections
  • Tetanus – Tetanus is caused by an infection with the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is commonly found in soil, dust and manure. The bacteria generally enter through a break in the skin such as a cut or puncture wound by a contaminated object. They produce toxins that interfere with muscle contractions, resulting in the typical symptoms

Another type of hazard that one should be on the lookout for during flooding are physical hazards. Physical hazards are probably the most notorious dangers that are present during a flood. These can range from electrical hazards, water damage to the body and environment.

  • Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, occurs when the feet are wet for long periods of time. Symptoms of trench foot include a tingling and/or itching sensation, pain, swelling, cold and blotchy skin, numbness, and a prickly or heavy feeling in the foot. Blisters may form, followed by skin and tissue dying and falling off.  In severe cases, untreated trench foot can involve the toes, heel, or entire foot.
  • Drowning – Flood water poses drowning risks for everyone, regardless of their ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children. Vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water.
  • Injuries – Flood waters may contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal fragments, that can cause injury and lead to infection. Wood, metal and other objects are being swept by fast moving water or are being covered by high waters making them unable to be seen. This can lead to puncture wounds, shear wounds and much more.
  • Electrical Hazards – After a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster you need to be careful to avoid electrical hazards both in your home and elsewhere. Avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities, do not drive through water if downed power lines are in the water. It is easy to be electrocuted during a flood as one may not notice downed power lines while driving. Also, electrical equipment in the home that are in water can lead to electrocution. Do not try to unplug them.
  • Destruction of homes and other infrastructure- flooding can easily weaken buildings causing them to collapse. It causes greater loss than just a building. People lose everything including household appliances and a proper resting place. Flooding removes the comfort of calling a place your home.

engineering(engineering block at the UWI)

  • Destruction of agricultural land and crops: if our agricultural land is destroyed, how and where will our crops and vegetation be grown? Furthermore how will we survive and sustain a proper standard of living? Less crops will mean higher prices on the market as their will be a great demand. In turn we the citizens will have to dig deeper into our pockets to purchase these goods causing a negative effect on the entire region.

The bottom line of flooding is that it also adds another risk to our lists. Mental stress! Yes that’s right!

  • Mental stress and fatigue is another life threatening risk as it may cause financial instability, cost us great loss and cause all round tension before, during and after since much preparation, clean up and caution is needed to keep us on our toes to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
  • The picture below illustrates flooding at UWI, which could delay the learning process of students as it will be difficult for them to attend classes. As a result of this, many will become tensed and frustrated as they will be concern about their education.

eng crossing

Finally, Chemical hazards are infamous during flooding. They can consists of chemicals from sewage plants to household cleaners that get mixed up in the flood waters. One should be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places. When these chemicals interact with the human body, they can cause:

  • Choking – causes severe irritation or swelling of the respiratory tract (lining of the nose and throat, lungs)
  • Incapacitation — by drugs that make people unable to think clearly or that cause an altered state of consciousness (possibly unconsciousness)
  • Metallic poisoning
  • Nerve ailments — highly poisonous chemicals that work by preventing the nervous system from working properly
  • Vomiting —chemicals that can cause nausea and vomiting
  • Uncontrollable bleeding

keep-calm-because-we-can-fix-that

So how can we deal with the problem of flooding in the country and at The University of the West Indies? We not only came up with our own solutions to the problem, but we included the “Inter American Development Bank: Trinidad and Tobago Flood Alleviation and Drainage Program (2013)”. This plan proposes solutions and ways to initiate them, with the help of pieces of legislation that include the OSH Act, Public Health Ordinance, The Water and Sewage Authority Act, The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, among others.

Solutions to flooding can be divided into separate categories; soft and hard engineering strategies. Soft engineering strategies can be described as flood warning and preparation while hard engineering strategies are building dams & reservoirs and channel straightening. The soft engineering strategies deal with protection while hard engineering strategies accesses the situation and offers the best alternative solution.

Flood preparations can range from personal protection, property protection, knowing evacuation routes to health and sanitation. Personal preparation and health and sanitation are similar:

  • Listen to news updates and other local information sources such as the ODPM and the Red Cross to get information and advice as soon as possible.
  • Drinking and using pipe-borne water is a serious health hazard after recent flooding, it is strongly suggested that bottled water be used or boiling water to remove any harmful bacteria.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting anything that got wet is always advisable, in order to remove any sewage, bacteria or harmful chemicals which might accompany the floodwaters.
  • The goal of property protection is to reduce the risk of damage before flooding occurs. This will require elevating critical utilities such as; electrical panel, sockets, wiring, and appliances. Waterproofing flat areas with sandbags and man-made banks can also help.
  • Knowing the quickest way out and alternative routes is also important especially in the capital city Port-of-Spain. If you are to get out of the capital city Port-of-Spain before sunset and you have to use public transportation on a rainy day it is always recommended that you move as quickly as possible.

The use of dams, reservoirs, channel straightening, costal defence and afforestation can be used to prevent flooding.

  • Dams and reservoirs are designed to store water and control the discharge of rivers. Therefore, the government should consider designing more of these dams in flood prone areas. In the dry season these dams should be maintained and checked.
  • In addition, cleaning and widening river banks to ensure smooth flow of water in the rainy season. River defences such as channel straightening, levees, diversion spillways should be considered to equip and aid rivers which burst its bank an annual bases.
  • Meanders are removed by building artificial cut-through. This makes the water flow faster which reduces flooding because water drains downstream more quickly and does not build up to the point where the channel cannot contain anymore.
  • Diversion spillways should also be considered which equip rivers with gates which can open to alternative sources to release water if and when necessary. The Flood Alleviation and Drainage Plan suggested that in order to aid the flooding in the Frederick Street- Independence Square area, 3.0km of drainage conduits should be installed and fitted with flaps gates that prevent water from the river flowing back out into the streets.
  • Around the Queens Park Savannah was recommend drainage, accompanied with a detention basin that at the south corner to relieve flood waters and trash collectors in the Gulf of Paria where the basin will empty to prevent any further blockage.

Bringing the problem of flooding a bit closer to home, The University of the West Indies is no stranger to being completely submerged under water.

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(Vehicles submerged at UWI car park)                                                                   (Flooding in front the Alma Jordan Library)

Other than the amount of rainfall the most popular reason for flooding in and around campus is improper drainage and pollution.

  • We recommend that the relevant authorities find alternatives or modify the drainage system. The second ranked perceived reason for the floods at the University of the West Indies is improper maintenance. The drainage pipes and waterways should be checked and cleaned at least every three months. There should also be a head of maintenance department monitoring and accessing maintenance personnel work. Tackling the major causes will certainly put an end to the problem if not at least alleviate it to some extent. With that being said, the time taken for the flood waters to subside will be shorter.

The most popular responses from students being affected by flooding is being stranded in campus unable to leave and not being able to enter.

  • In order to rectify this problem students can address their concern to shuttle service authorities, to work through prolonged periods of flood. An increase in the amount of shuttle buses should be used when there is flooding.
  • The university can also consider building a ramp from block six(6) engineering to an area close to the south gate entrance. Since this is the most popular spot in which flooding occurs and students cannot leave or get into campus.
  • The second most popular response from students being affected by the floods is being unable to attend classes. The university should have a strict policy where classes are cancelled during flooding. It should be considered since a few students complained of health concerns such as skin irritation.
  • When there is flooding the maintenance department should be given the responsibility to sanitize the compound with whatever chemicals necessary since the floods attract rodents. Just a few poison boxes around campus does not deal with the influx of rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes that are seen after flood waters have subsided.
  • Students are of the view that the problem can be solved by reconstructing the drainage system, regular maintenance and planting of more trees in areas such as LRC Green and on the lawn of JFK
  • The University should request that the cooperation officials maintain surroundings areas such as underground drains on at least on a monthly base. Heavy fines should be imposed and enforced since many businesses in the St Augustine area practice dumping into water-ways.

Eliminating the threat in this situation should be the first strategy to preventing floods and the hazards associated with it. This in essence means that drainage systems should be cleaned and other causes dealt with respectively. However, if elimination is unlikely, then we should skip straight to engineering to ensure that the systems recommended above will be put in place to curb the flooding concern, e.g. creating detention basins, trash collectors and building alternative routes to classrooms in the case of the university.

Since we have noted that the majority of flooding is caused by human activities, we recommend that the government put in place strict laws and policies about trash disposal, quarrying and deforestation. We recognize  that without quarrying and deforestation, urbanization is curbed, however we advise that there be a limit to the amount of quarries that are run and also a height restriction on how elevated construction can occur on hills and mountains. Establishment of environmental laws is the way to prevent further flooding.

In conclusion, flooding does not only affect our lives today, it will also slow down sustainable growth for the future. It destroys our lands, homes and livelihoods, spreads poisons and toxins that can seep into our earth and affect our future generations. If we do not act now, we may not have a bright or dry future ahead.

REFERENCES

  • Risks associated with flooding

http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/flood/standing.html

https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/defining_flood_risks.jsp

https://www.google.tt/search?q=blog+iMAGE+OF+FLOODING&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=643&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI9o_KicnOyAIVQ_VjCh3WtAvg#tbm=isch&q=CARTOONISED+iMAGE+OF+FLOODING&imgrc=WUPhdQmGEiWilM%3A

  • Causes of flooding in Trinidad

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Poor_drainage__not_rain__blamed_for_floods-145709225.html

  • Pictures of The University of the West Indies

http://www.tv6tnt.com/u-report/223331081.html

  • Types of Flooding

http://www.odpm.gov.tt/node/16

  • Solutions to Flooding

http://www.slideshare.net/HNurton/methods-of-flood-control?next_slideshow=1

http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409002852888-3c5d1f64f12df02aa801901cc7c311ca/how_to_prepare_flood_033014_508.pdf

  • The Flood Alleviation and Drainage Program PDF

Flood-Alleviation-Drainage-Program


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Common Sense & Safety…Can it improve your life?

YOLO………or You Only Live Once as many would know it, just happens to be the mind set of most of today’s generation. Living young, wild and free is downright acceptable and expected. However, when it comes to common safety and health precautions most of today’s generation overlook certain aspects which could lengthen their “one” life. This blog reflects common safety and health hazards overlooked during a rivalry between a frat house, Delta PSI Beta and their neighbour, a young couple with a new born baby, in the 2014 movie Neighbours[1].  Although the movie is set in a city in USA for the purposes of this blog we will utilise T&T safety standards for comparison of situations unless otherwise stated.

As hilarious as the movie seemed to be, it contained numerous safety and health hazards, which could happen to anyone. One of the issues that stood out was the level of noise produced by the frat house. Noise can affect the health of individuals in many ways ranging from minor (lack of sleep) to severe (hearing impairment). Every owner, occupier or employer shall take adequate steps to prevent hearing impairment caused by noises, and diseases caused by vibration, from occurring to persons in, or in the vicinity (OSH Act, Trinidad and Tobago, 45)[2]. It also states that the Chief Inspector may issue an order to reduce the level of noise generated by a process. As seen in the movie, the frat house partied regularly with the use of loud music with little courtesy for their neighbours, especially the couple who lived next door with a newly born baby. Upon moving in the couple kindly requested the frat house to keep it down and they (frat members) agreed to do so. However, after the second night of nonstop music, it became intolerable as a booming party at 4:00 am created unbearable noise waking the couple and scaring the baby. After many vain attempts to contact the president of the fraternity, the couple decided to break their promise of never calling the police who would hopefully stop the noise. Upon arriving at the frat house the police informed the president of the complaint after which the music and partying quickly reduced. The police did not conduct any further investigation into the matter therefore the noise problem continued to exist bringing discomfort to the couple’s everyday lives.

noise

Police questioning couple about noise complaint in the presence of the fraternity president.

Consequently, rivalry between the two neighbours began, in a vicious plot by the couple an electrical hazard was created which could have led to a fire hazard. An electrical hazard is a dangerous condition such that contact or equipment failure can result in electric shock, arc-flash burn, thermal burn, or blast (Electrical Safety Definitions PDF, 2)[3].  The young couple clearly did not use their common sense in trying to sabotage the frat house by placing a hose through a window to create a situation of flood. This, they hoped would have resulted in the fraternity moving out. Shockingly as it seems….this could of lead to critical injuries as well as deaths. Who in their right minds would want to electrocute a couple of party goers or indefinitely kill? Clearly the couple was distressed. An electrical hazard would have been created if the water level had risen to an electrical power outlet electrocuting all the frat members standing in the water. Had it come into contact with electricity from a love outlet a spark would have been created and when combined with electrical equipment at the frat house a fire would have started. Luckily the frat members noticed the situation before the risk of electrocution had increased further ensuring their safety and that of the house.

Seriously not funny.

Thank God for Laws…so much more hazards could have been created.

Mind you that the fraternity had burnt down their previous house due to their reckless use of fireworks. Unfortunately they were not punished by the University but only given probation on a three strike policy. Fireworks are essentially explosives and setting them off in a wooden house, such as that of the fraternity would almost certainly cause a fire. You would think so right? The likelihood of this hazard can be rated 5/5 as Very Likely (Barcelona Field Studies Centre, Risk Assessment Severity Key)[4]. Considering the overcrowding of the house due to heavy partying and intoxication of the occupants, would make a timely evacuation unlikely. Together with the scenario of a large fire the severity of this hazard, using the severity scale for physical injuries can be estimated at 4/5 – Severe injury or trauma requiring urgent hospital attention (Barcelona Field Studies Centre, Risk Assessment Severity Key)[5].

bad neighbour

Delta PSI beta’s President

Along with the additional discomfort brought about by the fraternity house came the responsibilities of being new parents which led to increased stress levels on the young couple. Since their arrival to the neighbourhood, the father in the movie began to think that his life was boring due to the fraternity’s constant partying. He resorted to smoking marijuana and that too, at his place of work with his co –worker/friend. The head employee eventually caught them smoking behind the workplace, as the Exit door was pushed open the father quickly shoved the lit joint in his mouth. A hazard of health was created leading to the consequences of the father’s tongue being burnt as well as other parts of his mouth, he also had excessive coughing due to the inhalation of smoke. It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the safety and health of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work (Occupational Health and Safety Act Trinidad and Tobago, 22)[6]. The father was therefore not taking care of his health as well as the health of the co-worker. The head employee did not take any evasive action to prevent his employees from smoking at the workplace or at home therefore their health will continue to deteriorate which could negatively affect the company.

It’s all well and fine to have fun and enjoy life but at what costs? Surely the movie was as hilarious as Kevin Hart but it does not portray an appropriate example for viewers in terms of safety and health. There were so many situations which could have and probably might have gone wrong fortunately there was a Director and Producer present on the scene many of them were just pranks, fooling around and not so well studied revenge plots. Common sense combined with safety can help and improve our everyday life by just thinking before we act.

[1] Neighbours (released as Bad Neighbours in some markets) is a 2014 American comedy film, directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien.

[2] Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act of 2004, Amended by 3 of 2006. Ministry of Legal Affairs. Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.legal affairs.gov.tt

[3] https://www.lanl.gov/safety/electrical/docs/definitions.pdf

[4] http://geographyfieldwork.com/RiskAssessmentSeverityScale.htm

[5] http://geographyfieldwork.com/RiskAssessmentSeverityScale.htm

[6] Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act of 2004, Amended by 3 of 2006. Ministry of Legal Affairs. Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.legal affairs.gov.tt