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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SEA ” 👀 ” ALL HAZARDS

A Blog post by color hair hazards on the existing hazards in the featured film Captain 👮 Phillip……

 

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Captain Phillips the emotionally charged story of Somali pirates taking an American sea captain hostage, while concurrently exposing the underlying economic divide that sets the event in motion. The story begins in Vermont, where Captain Phillips leaves his family to sail the Maersk Alabama with cargo mainly food aid halfway around the world to Africa.  At the same time in Somalia,  a former coastal fisherman, Muse aims to overtake one of the high-value ships that passes through the nearby coast every day. At the heart of the confrontation between Phillips and the desperate Somali pirates who take him hostage, reveal the many hazardous conditions that the men and their crew are faced with.  The possibility of causing injury to themselves, the ship, loss of cargo and not reaching the planned destination is inevitable. Ignorant of the many potential hazards in the Somali basin, Captain Phillips, risk assessment was poor, having only one contingency plan in place to curb the risk, much more could have been done to prevent this situation if a proper risk assessment was implemented. A trip that had few initial ergonomic and chemical hazards is now suddenly faced with biological, psychological and physical hazards  that violates the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) 2004 as amended in 2006.

Now lets identify the hazards found in the show…..

 

Biological Hazards

A Biological hazard as defined by  the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management is the  “processes of organic origin or those conveyed by biological vectors, including exposure to pathogenic micro-organisms, toxins and bio-active substances, which may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.”Simply speaking a biological hazard acts via agents such as plant, birds, humans, bacteria, insects and viruses. Within the movie Captain Phillips each interaction between the Somali pirates and the American crew could be interpreted as a possible biological hazard.

The poor hygienic practices possessed by the Somali pirates could be observed through the entirety of the show. These individuals were subjected to moist, humid conditions while continuously wearing the same articles of clothing. Unclean clothes could harbour microorganisms which could lead to skin infections, mold on clothing and in the case of one of the pirates chain smoking, an unpleasant body odor.

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Image 1 shows the depicts the hygienic conditions of the pirates.

While on the life boat, Captain Phillips requested some water from the Somali pirates; which he then received. However, this communal water could facilitate the transfer of various pathogens between individuals. It was also observed that during the selection process Muse chose a crew member from another village. Each individual is exposed to different types of bacteria within his/her home or environment, therefore individuals in another contextual environment may not share the same resistance to said bacteria. The sharing this water could have led to the spread of the common cold, hepatitis A, B or C and Tuberculosis. Similar to the spread of the Yellow Fever virus, to the indigenous from the Europeans, Captain Phillips could have also contaminated the water source during consumption. Limited border control and protection lead to the spread of potentially dangerous diseases by both parties

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Image 2 shows possible spread of blood borne diseases to Captain Phillips.

The spread of blood borne diseases could be seen as a large biological hazard. The assassination attempt of the Somali pirates lead to Captain Phillips being covered in the splatters of Somali blood.  Accidentally swallowing this blood along with it having any contact with an open wounds or sores, could have led to the transfer of blood borne diseases such as, Zika, H.I.V, Hepatitis B and viral hemorrhagic fevers.  The process of cleaning the possibly infected foot injury of one of the youngest pirate without proper safety wear such as gloves could have also resulted in the transfer of such diseases.

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Image 4 shows the means of ventilation on the lifeboat.

Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips."

Image 5 shows Captain Phillips showing Muse around the ship a requested.

Psychological Hazards

The movie Captain Phillips is the translation of a true re-enactment of the hijacking of the 2009 Somali hijacking of the American cargo ship, Maersk Alabama. Critics and film analyst, tend to pay close attention to the psychological trauma faced by Captain Phillips and his crew members. However, with critical analysis, it is evident that all groups found in the film do indeed experience some form of psychological trauma as a result of varying psychological hazards (based on the outline of the Operational health and safety act of 2004 as amended 2006) which may have already existed or come about due to actions of other groups as the case may be.

Firstly, however, the term psychological hazard must be defined. A psychological hazard according to www.physiotherapyalberta.com, is any hazard /dangerous element 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 as a result of health and safety issues. The main causes of psychological hazards are stress, uncertainty in the workplace, a lack of control and fear.

The film, Captain Phillip, whilst containing a host of hazards in general, is dominated with the element of psychological hazards. The movie in essence is a drama by genre. Therefore, a lot of the dramatic experiences, given the setting of ‘the workplace’, are as a result of existing psychological hazards. The (3) main groups we shall consider are:

  1. Captain Phillips and his crew of sea officials. (other certified co captains, the engine room engineer)
  2. Musa and his crew members.
  3. The other 20 ship crew members

Captain Phillips and his crew of sea officials

  • Before Captain Phillips even sets foot on the ship, there is an early scene of him paying very close attention to the details of the job. This scene depicts Captain Phillips a bit reluctant in his body language to willingly take on the job. This early state of psychological interference, can be deemed a hazard in itself, as it can result in an individual experiencing an element of mental stress throughout the course of the job.

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Image  8 depicts the geographical location if the attack.

  • 2 boats approach Captain’s vessel. An early psychological hazard which Captain Phillip and his staff are exposed to were the 2 fisherman boats speedily approaching their ship on day one at sea, whilst they were conducting an emergency routine. The 2 boats speedily approach the ship and even turn on the same course as the vessel when the captain steers the ship 5 degrees leftward. A major reason why this event was a source of psychological hazard, is because the captain’s plea for assistance from the navy was initially ignored. His analysis of the situation is dismissed as simply fishermen vessels. This may have led to the Captain losing some trust in the navy a bit and as such could have left him with a high level of fear of a return of the pirates. In this case what could’ve been done better, is that the Navy personnel should’ve taken his outcry seriously the first time and sent assistance immediately rather than later.
  • Return of one of the boats. The following day, one of the fisherman boats returns. However on this occasion crew members aren’t on spot to conduct procedures and therefore are left simply to go rush into hiding. Another psychological hazard on said day is the realization or reinforcement of the mere fact that the crew was entirely unarmed and unprepared to deal with invaders carrying weapons. This is evident as Captain Phillips and his sea team are shot at by the rebels and his only source of retaliation is via the use of a flare and hoses in an attempt to sink the boat of the attackers. In this case they should’ve had weapons which they may have been able to utilize if the situation arose. (P.P.E)

Columbia Pictures' "Capt. Phillips," starring Tom Hanks.

Image 9 shows the contingency plan of the crew to sink the small boat in aims of  preventing the pirates from coming aboard the vessel

  • One of the crew members is threatened at gunpoint. This could’ve easily led to fair and immense trauma.

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Image 10 shows the physiological assault on the crew members.

  • The rebels come aboard and Captain Phillip loses control of the vessel. (Lack of control) This would’ve been a major psychological hazard in Captain Phillip’s zeal to persist. His utmost task to ensure safety of all merchandise being transported as well as the safety of his staff had become compromised.

captain-phillips_ahmed

Image 11 shows the Somali pirates entering the navigation room of the ship.

  • Captain Musa announces he is going to search the ship. The new captain of the ship, Captain Musa, lets it be known that he is prepared to search the entire ship for the crew members. This would’ve been a source of psychological trauma for the other crew members as they may have been eternally concerned about the prospect of them being found and held captive with the other members of the team.

 

  • Captain Phillips is taken hostage aboard the emergency vessel. Captain Phillip finally loses any control when he is stripped entirely of his role of authority and in turn made to play the role of captive. He would’ve also been extremely fearful for his life at this point. At this point if I were Captain Phillip, I would really want to go home. What can I say 1 psychological hazard too many can really dampen the ambitions of even the most joyful of us. >_<

Faysal Ahmed, left, and Tom Hanks star in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips."

Image 12 show Captain Phillips boarding the lifeboat. 

  • Captain Phillip’s entire experience was a psychological hazard. At the beginning of the movie, it is clearly evident that Captain Phillip is by no means ambitious or passionate about going to Somalia to work. It is clear he senses the danger and was aware of the possibility of being hijacked. Hence, for a person who did not really have any great desire to be there too much, to have the worst experience of all the crew members. Threatened at gunpoint, had his duties stripped by pirates, had the safety of his men compromised, hit with the gun of the pirates, and now finally to witness the brutal murder of 4 men. These all pose a major hamper on his mental and emotional future. In other words, his entire experience at sea on this occasion, is in itself a psychological hazard to his future at sea, and as such may have made him stronger or as in other cases caused him to leave his job in fear of losing his life. (Or in local dialect, caused him to ‘Fire the wuk”)

 

Musa and his Crew

  • The ‘Mother ship’ left them. Throughout the movie Musa and his crew attempted to gain some form of communication with the team of ‘elders’ or other pirates they were working for. This never came to pass and essence would’ve left Musa feeling a sense of abandonment. (In particular from those he trusted and depended on)
  • Musa and his team were physically and mentally dejected. It’s almost to the climax of the movie at this point and Musa and his men are beginning to realize their choice to take Captain Phillip may have been a risky one. They also begin to realize that their elders and other pirates they worked with were not going to come back to their rescue nor were they attempting to communicate with them. Hence, they now decide to attempt to play into the hands of the Navy. How do they play into the hands of the Navy? Well they realize they might have had the shorter end of the stick as taking a man hostage made them terrorist, and the U.S Navy does not negotiate with terrorist. This meant that their plans had now been foiled and they had no control of their destiny. Their next bet therefore was to accept the offer of the Navy to negotiate on the terms of Musa going aboard the navy ship.
  • Musa’s men are assassinated. Making his decision based on fear and opting to go aboard the U.S Navy ship in a supposed controlled environment. Musa isn’t aware that he has been tricked and as a result the US Navy is able to assassinate his men. This plunges him into deep sadness. The psychological hazard of him going aboard the U.S ship was acutely evident. Such action simply meant that he was now not in control of the entire situation which meant his own safety and the safety of his men was at stake.

 


Ergonomic hazards

According to the University of Chicago Environmental Health and Safety Ergonomic hazard is any workplace condition that pose a threat to musculoskeletal system of an employee such as repetitive movement, uncomfortable work stations, overcrowding and poor body positions.

captain-phillips-b4

Image 13 shows the ergonomic hazards  imposed onto the Somali pirates.

In the movie Captain Phillips, ergonomic hazards are visible in various scenes where the Somali pirate crew is involved in strenuous positions and manual labor both on their mothership and the skiffs (rowing boat). The Maersk Alabama crew also was involved in strenuous task where their jobs require them to be on their feet. This requirement increased after the first pirate attack where they were instructed to work double shift. These hazards could cause muscle strains and possible major injuries to the musculoskeletal system in the future such as Upper Limb Disorder (ULD).

hierarchy-of-control

Image 14 shows the hierarchy of control 

According to the hierarchy of control there are activities to reduce risks that can be used to help the crew. The first level of the hierarchy is elimination, therefore the members of the two crews could position themselves in a more comfortable position, avoid strenuous position and have a seat available to sit when their legs get tire. However, the crew cannot perform these action since it would hamper their ability to do their jobs. The second level is substitution but the duties cannot be replaced with a safer alternative since the tasks needs to be done in this manner. The third level isolation also cannot be done as the jobs cannot be kept away from workers to avoid injury since their work is needed for the ship to make its voyage. The forth level engineer or designing something to solve the workers problem of muscle strain, however, to my knowledge such technical relieve have not been invented just yet. The fifth level administration which is to arrange a system to make things better was implemented for the Maersk Alabama crew with a shift system but not for the Somali pirate crew, however because of the pirates attempted attack on the crew they had to work double shift. The final level and last resort is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which was provided for the Maersk Alabama crew but not the Somali pirates.

This film image released by Sony - Columbia Pictures shows, from left, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, and Mahat Ali in "Captain Phillips." (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Jasin Boland)

This film image released by Sony – Columbia Pictures shows, from left, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, and Mahat Ali in “Captain Phillips.” (AP Photo/Sony – Columbia Pictures, Jasin Boland)

 

Federation of Small Business (FSB) stated that overcrowding is an ergonomic hazard which could lead to stress and confrontation due to invasion of personal space, health effects caused by overcrowding. Overcrowding is seen in the movie when four Somali pirates were on a skiff which was designed to carry one person resulting in the pirates sitting in unsafe areas of the boat and almost falling overboard when the engine failed causing them to come to an abrupt stop. Overcrowding is also sighted in the scene on the pirates’ mother-ship where the entire crew of nine men were aboard the small ship and having to share this small space a confrontation occurred between the crew leaders, who constantly threatened each other throughout the movie, eventually leading to the death of one of them. To avoid such altercations the two pirate crew could have been sectioned off or been on separate ship to prevent interaction. The Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) (2004) as amended (2006) section 5 subsection 1 to 4 gives guidelines on the space required for each person in the workplace to avoid such incidence. This analysis shows that the pirates were clearly exploited by their employer and exposed to higher risk of ergonomic injury.

In conclusion, the failed contingency plan of Captain Phillips and his crew, along with their ignored reports to the authorities resulted in each individual being exposed to both temporary and permanent hazards. Each hazard examined shows varying degrees of threats imposed on individuals which can affect the future standard of life  awarded. The infrequency of pirate attacks on cargo ships should have affected the construction of a risk assessment,  as it should include the likely hood of all possible hazardous situations of ships in open water.  It is generally taught to members of the crew that as a means to preserve their welfare to give into the desires of pirates as cargo ships usually only have one fire arm. The biological, chemical, physical, psychological and ergonomic hazards sustained by everyone that could of been avoided had better health and safety practices been implemented.

Works Cited List

Basic Paperwork for Health and Safety.” NHS Health Scotland. NHS Health Scotland, 16 July 14. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

Brad. “Look At Me, I’m The Captain Now.” Know Your Meme News. Chez Brger, 2016. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

By Doing So, You Have Created a Safer and Healthier Workplace. “OSH Answers Fact Sheets.” Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Canada. CA, 2016. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

Doucette, Chrystal. “The Top Five Types of Workplace Hazards.” Small Business. N.p., 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

Goetsch, David L. The Basics of Occupational Safety. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

ODPM. “Disaster Cycles: Mitigation and Preparedness.” Environmental Hazards and Disasters Contexts, Perspectives and Management (2011): 157-96. Web.

“Physiotherapy Alberta College Association : The Movement Specialists: Home.” Physiotherapy Alberta College Association : The Movement Specialists: Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2016

“Tom Hanks Captain Phillips.” Tom Hanks Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

“Trinidad & Tobago : Occupational Safety & Health Act (Amendment).” Trinidad & Tobago : Occupational Safety & Health Act (Amendment). Trinidad&Tobago, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

 

So now as you read………………….

Take a moment and close your eyes and imagine you are Captain Phillip or Captain Musa as the case may be. Picture all the hazards around and other violations of the OSH act. What would you do?

 

Leave a comment in the section as to what you may have done better.


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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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Walking in a Safety Officer’s Shoes

Can you imagine what’s going through the mind of the Safety Officer in the featured image at the left? We don’t know what’s happening in front of him, but we can tell it’s hellish. There appear to be people packed all around him, looking on or else waiting with bated breath. The man is grimy; he’s obviously been working hard under some stressful conditions. And now, while he waits, he can only cross his fingers, knowing he’s not in control. Is somebody’s life on the line? Are there more than one victim in this accident or catastrophe?

Imagine you were in his shoes. How would you feel? What would you be thinking? Just thinking about it makes my chest tighten up so it becomes hard to take a comfortable breath. How would you cope under the kind of stress he is facing? What would your response be: How would your body respond? Your mind? Your emotions? What steps would come next? Hospital trips? Insurance reviews? Investigative reports? Commissions of inquiry? Lawsuits? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Welcome to MGMT 3311, our course on Occupational Safety and Health Management. This is our class blog, to be used by us all as we explore the elements of OSH Management, spanning support systems, hazard identification and control, risk assessment and mitigation, to health and welfare considerations, to the mandates of our OSH Act. Let’s find out what can be done to significantly reduce the chances of us one day having to stand by powerlessly, with our fingers crossed.