OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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OSH Hazards in “Deepwater Horizon” (2016)

TERRIFYING. SUSPENSEFUL. EXTRAORDINARY.

Just use your imagination with me for a few minutes, ready?

What if you were on THAT rig on April 20th, 2010? Yes I’m talking about the one in the picture above, the one that’s TOTALLY engulfed in flames, the one that numerous workers are aboard just patiently waiting for their release date so they can FINALLY head home to their wives, husbands, children or parents, the one that looks like survivors may be the last thing you’ll find on board.

Did your heartbeat fasten? Did you feel like you would have been scared to death, LITERALLY! Just picture it, the heat, the pungent smell of chemicals, the excessive smoke, the roaring of the fire and everyone around you is panicking, afraid that they may not escape alive.  I don’t know about you, but I for one would probably FREAK OUT knowing that my life is flashing right before my eyes!

Wait, I’m not finished playing with your imagination! Let’s take this from another point of view, what if your child, your significant other, or relative was on that rig and you’re at home looking at continuous updates and reports of this tragedy. What would you be thinking?

On April 20th this horrific blowout claimed the lives of 11 offshore workers, it separated loved ones from families. But don’t you think maybe, just maybe if they followed protocol more lives could’ve been saved? The movie Deepwater Horizon is based on a true story that occurred in 2010 regarding the explosion of an oil rig due to multiple technical failures and bad decisions. The movie focuses primarily on the ill-fated and malfunctioning blowout preventer, a device designed to seal fluids such as gas beneath it and prevent them from coming to the surface. There are many inaccuracies and OSH related incidents in “Deepwater Horizon.” Some were small: For example, Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician for Transocean, sped down a flight of stairs on the rig carrying his luggage without holding any handrails, which would be a clear violation of Transocean safety policy. Others were huge.

Did you watch the movie Deepwater Horizon? Well, if you did, you would’ve noticed there were a number of hazards evident in the movie. They can be categorized into Physical Hazards, Psychological, Chemical, Biological and Ergonomic hazards.

If you are interested in the movie, here’s a link to the trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yASbM8M2vg

But for now, let’s jump right in….

Physical Hazards

Many physical factors breaching health and safety measures were observed in this movie. As the movie opens, we can see an inspection is about to be carried out on the blowout preventer (BOP). Bubbles were then seen emerging up from the concrete base. When James Harrell and his crew arrived on the Deepwater Horizon, a floating rig, they are surprised to learn that the Schlumberger team assigned to run the cement bond log test by conducting a pressure test, were sent home early by orders from the BP managers, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza. This is the first issue we saw emerging from the movie, the importance of workplace inspections.

Wouldn’t you automatically think, “Hmm that is not a great idea, you should definitely do the test”?

When you work offshore, safety is something you make top priority as there are a lot of risks and hazards involved. Workplace inspections help prevent accidents and incidents which allow for qualified persons to take corrective action in the event that something is wrong.

Harrell points out a hazard to the BP managers, that the cement is the only thing between them and a blowout, which is his way of telling them, “Guys this test is seriously important! We can’t just ignore it.” If the cement job is compromised, everything above it, that is, the rig and all persons on board go up with it. The risk involved seemed very high because, remember those bubbles we saw earlier? That does not look like a good sign!

Harrell eventually convinces Mr. Vidrine, one of the managers to carry out a negative pressure test. However the test only serves to weaken the cement and a pressure alert is heard from the computer system. However, nothing happened, no mud came out from the pipeline so it seemed fine.

But wait. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief, that’s not the end of it.

Remember when we mentioned the risk was high? Well, guess how high it was. The cement job eventually failed which resulted in a blowout that took the lives of six men, SIX MEN!

Gif illustrating first mud explosion
Source: http://gph.is/2y1U2Yn

During the blowout, the main hazard, debris, can be seen projecting in all directions, smashing into the office windows and the risk involved can be classed as high due to the fact that men were killed. Even though we can see a wire barrier to further prevent larger objects from passing through, it was no match for the amount of pressure that was being released. Mud and oil are blasting everywhere, there is chaos, which makes it hard for the men who were working closer to the pipes to evacuate as they could not see properly or run away from it due to the oily, muddy and slippery grounds.

Image 1 illustrating mud and oil creating a slippery environment

This goes to show the serious need to carry out the necessary/proper checks and tests so that you are able to operate in the safest possible working environment.

See guys, sometimes shortcuts can result in the most severe of outcomes. Sure they were thinking about the money and how much they could have saved by not running the test, but was it worth it? Imagine this is only the beginning of the disaster that is about to unfold. Prepare yourself emotionally. You’ve been warned.

Everything intensifies! A huge explosion erupts and no, not just the mud and oil, but a fiery explosion! You may not have even realized it, but your jaw just dropped during this scene. Mine sure did!

Usually, you would say, “It’s just a movie, whatever,” but no, this is based on true events, TRUE EVENTS! Some of the hazards presented in this part of the movie were everyday objects, such as the lights and doors. You usually wouldn’t worry about those but due to the intense pressure released from the second explosion, the risk involved was also very high. Mike and Harrell among others are badly injured when the pressure and blast caused the lights and glass on the rig to shatter and hurl everywhere and for the doors to burst open, one of which slammed into Mike.

Another physical hazard was the burning crane and the risk involved was very high as one man tried to “control” it. He gave his life to save the surviving crew by diverting the burning crane that would have fell on them. Can you imagine that? Knowing the risk involved but still taking it just to save others.

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Gif showing crane crashing and killing the crew member who risked his life to save others
Source : http://gph.is/2gpB2cz

Mike and Andrea are the last two remaining on the rig. There are many hazards around them, which include, both on the rig and in the water; fire everywhere, gases in the air and falling debris all around them. They have two choices, stay on the rig or jump in the water. The risks involved in both scenarios, such as serious injury or death, are very high, but at this point, it seems to Mike like the better option is to take their chances and jump in the water. To his, hers and our relief, this was the better option as they both survived even though Mike is hit on the head by an object and has to keep dodging other projectile objects.

How can this be prevented?

As previously mentioned, where the health and safety of someone’s life is concerned, do not let money do the talking, don’t take the shortest and easiest way out. That could mean the survival or death of someone in extreme cases such as this one.

One safety issue occurred when the pressure gauge in the control room exceeded its recommended (safe) limit. Following that sign, the crew handled the matter nonchalantly not knowing the severity of the situation. Emergency evacuation procedures should have been followed immediately in areas where men were working close to the pipes and where the mud flows out.

Another part where they could have evacuated was when mud started coming out of the equipment, the men tried to control it when they should have immediately left and go to a safer part of the rig. Maybe if they evacuated at this point, the death toll could have been less.

Sometimes we don’t pay attention to simple safety hazards in our homes or workplace, or evaluate the worst case scenarios and try to take corrective action so that we may prevent them. This is one reason why we must respect and take seriously the OSH standards and follow protocol. If the BP managers had carried out the necessary tests and properly examined the cement structure, it could have saved many lives and prevented all the other hazards and risks that unfolded in the days after due to the oil spill it created. Also, trusting each other is important, if the engineer, that is the expert, said that the readings on the machine indicated that something was wrong, then he would most likely be right.

Psychological Hazards

After discussing all those physical hazards, can you imagine the psychological impact it had on these people both during and after the event? This isn’t something you forget about with time, oh no, this stays with you forever.

A psychological hazard is 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. You would think the source of these psychological hazards starts after the pressure tests when the explosion happened, but no, as a matter of fact, this started almost as soon as they landed on the rig. This is because the first thing they learned as they arrived was that the Schlumberger workers were leaving without conducting the necessary tests. It immediately worries and stresses Harrell because something so important was simply called off by the managers without consulting him. This creates an environment of tension between him and the BP managers. This stress is also seen when Harrell decides to give the managers a piece of his mind and demand that operations on the rig will not continue unless the negative pressure test is done so he can be sure that it is safe to continue work. At this scene, we also see frustration displayed by Mike when he lists out all the equipment that is not functional which then makes his and the others jobs more complicated.

Can you imagine having to work with such arrogant persons? Always having to complain about something or not have your opinion be taken seriously? The constant stress and frustration is surely enough to have serious psychological implications.

636105960405775561-DWH-D20-06019-RImage 2 showing Harrell and crew members frustrated with BP managers while conducting the tests

Now, we’re going to talk about where the psychological hazards intensify, and I mean jaw-dropping and tearjerker moments! I’m sure at some points while watching this movie you were holding your head in shock or maybe even wiping away the tears.

After carrying out the tests, known to the audience but unknown to the actors at this point, the cement had been compromised and a massive blowout occurred. One of the BP managers decides to go outside where the pipes were which put him at the blowout scene along with other workers. Though the manager was okay and was being assisted by Caleb, one of the crew members, others were seriously hurt, some even died.

This manager walks out there being cocky thinking everything went smoothly, but to his dismay, it is worse than he could have imagined. Those who were aware of what was going on were now fearful of what would or could happen after this blowout and were beginning to panic.

Had I been on that rig, I would’ve already been on my way to get on a lifeboat and leave! Bye, not coming back, good luck to you, not taking any chances with my life.

If that initial blowout was not enough to freak you out, a series of malfunctions ignited the oil causing a massive fiery explosion which affected the majority of rig. Now everyone is aware of the situation and the only thing left to do is to evacuate the entire rig.

Fear, panic, nervousness and being scared to death are only a few ways to describe the emotional and psychological atmosphere on the Deepwater Horizon. Crew members had to witness the death of their co-workers in multiple scenes, which is something that may never leave their memories.

Nearing the end of the movie where everyone except Mike and Andrea have evacuated the rig, came a dilemma. Mike, who seemed to be the one thinking of the quickest escape decides that jumping in the water may be their only chance at survival. However Andrea suffers a panic attack as she does not want to die and says she will not jump off the rig. With no other option in mind, Mike pushes her off and jumps after her.

Gif illustrating Andrea being pushed off the rig
Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/3ohhwxmSJfmR9lRSi4

Wait, what? So you’re suffering from a panic attack and someone pushes you into the now fiery ocean. Sure at the end she survived and had it not been for that act she may have died, but in that moment, Andrea was probably thinking, this is it for me, the end.

They are both joined by the surviving crew members. You can see the sadness and distress of the crew from witnessing all that had just unfolded.

Even at the hotel, Mike is distraught. He falls onto the bathroom door, shattering it as he bursts out into tears. Family members are also distressed, they were concerned whether loved ones made it back. Most, if not all crews members may now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder/syndrome (PTSD/PTSS). According to Mayo Clinic, PTSD is “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” Some of the crew members never worked on a rig again because the idea of such a thing recurring is just too much to handle emotionally.

Chemical Hazards

How did those hazards sound? What about chemical hazards? Oil rig + Fire + Offshore. What comes to mind? GAS & GASEOUS SUBSTANCES. Can you imagine? Does this even tickle your nasal passage?

Deepwater Horizon is a clear illustration of how the combination of carbon dioxide, highly dangerous chemical, combustion sources; including burning oil and natural gas, and the use of gasoline‐powered engines can lead to catastrophic danger.

Gif  illustrating fiery explosion
Source: http://gph.is/2gk3MDp

On the Deepwater Horizon platform there was serious concern about the potential health effects on workers from inhalation and skin exposure to crude oil, weathered oil, dispersants, solvents used to clean boats, and other chemicals. Did they wear any face masks? Nope.

Workers were not fully protected with the adequate PPE as Mike walked through the plant without any protective gear .They were exposed to health and safety risks at work. Look at the difference in the picture below, Mike is seen on the right side of the picture.

Image 3 illustrating lack off PPE worn by Mike

The workers on the platform were exposed to poisonous gas and chemicals . Imagine being exposed to harmful chemical on your skin while toxic gas and stifling smoke entering your respiratory system. Woozy? This is a bit traumatic to think about . There was a gas failure throughout the entire platform . A combination of gas, mud, and pressure lead to a cataclysmic mass advocate explosion and an over blast of flames throughout the entire platform. As the rig ignited and exploded it engulfed the platform causing damage to both the rig and ocean.

During the height of the explosion workers on the rig often were not clothed with gloves, eye protection, and respiratory protective equipment. With high-pressure methane gas expanding from the well it is essential to have the necessary safety gear to protect oneself.

The environment was also significantly affected as well. The ocean was engulfed in flames and oil emerged on the surface of the sea. Need a visual? Look at the picture below.

deepwater-horizon-oscar-effects-vfx-4-1200x675Image 4 showing ocean engulfed in flames as oil surfaces

The effects of the oil spill not only affected the workers on the Deepwater Horizon but was a catastrophic event experienced among aqua marine life. Oil spills frequently kill marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea otters. Birds were covered with thick, black coating of oils which gave them difficulties to fly, causing them to endanger themselves by frequently colliding with objects.

Ergonomic Hazards

Thus far, we’ve looked at the physical, psychological and chemical hazards. What else comes to mind? Think about it; Oil rig, Metal, Iron, Pipes, Valves, Machinery, HEAVY EQUIPMENT and many others. Somewhere and somehow, one or more of these physicals factors can affect a person’s musculoskeletal system. Don’t fall asleep just yet, LET’S TALK ABOUT ERGONOMIC HAZARDS.

Some of the crewmen can be seen jointly trying to contain a piece of the equipment in the scene where the mug initially starts flowing over, and we both know that if it requires more than one person to contain it, it must be heavy.

Workmen operated in an environment where they would have suffered from poor posture issues as well as back and knee pains resulting from their job descriptions, noted by the lifting of heavy materials around the station. Some work cabins were also uncomfortable for employees because there was no air conditioning. This most likely lead to heat exhaustion. The chair seen in Mike’s cabin would cause him to have back pain due to the height of the back rest being to low, causing him to slouch (refer to picture below).

Image 5 illustrating Mike slouching over his desk

Conclusion

There is no going back! No rewinding the hands of time! The depiction of this movie, without a doubt, exhibits how ignorance over safety protocols can result in an episode of disaster. What’s “done is done”, however the pore-raising catastrophe from Deepwater Horizon would definitely make you aware of the importance to abiding by safety regulations and how it is effective in preventing tragedies such as this, an explosion of a massive oil rig. The memories and injuries remain as a constant lingering reminder of what could NOT have been, if only the CORRECT safety protocols were followed. Safety protocol should have taken precedence above all and this movie should serve as warning and catalyst for businesses, that safety is a priority.

 

References

Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling. (2014, June 06). Retrieved October 09, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-131/

King, B.S., &Gibbins, J.D.(2011, August). Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers. Retrived from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2010-0115-0129-3138.pdf

Psychological Hazards and Controls for Rehabilitation Professionals. (2011, November 7). Retrieved from https://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/course_materials/ohs_module_6_handout.pdf

The Failures that Caused the Gulf Oil Spill. (n.d.) Retrieved October 09, 2017, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19425-the-eight-failures-that-caused-the-gulf-oil-spill/

 

 

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Accident Free Analyzes the Implementation of OSH Practices in the SLDD Building at UWI, St. Augustine Campus

Hey, students of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine! Have you ever questioned the safety of your university? Have you ever wondered whether you are safe when going to the SLDD for assistance?  Well today is your lucky day! Accident Free is here to take you on a ride which will have bumps, but also smooth patches because we are investigating and highlighting all of the negatives as well as the positives in the SLDD building. Most students are unaware of the hazards in their school until they fall victim to it. Let’s learn about safety and health issues together because occupational safety and health matters.

Hope you enjoy the ride with us 🙂

Here is a brief introduction of The Student Life and Development Department (SLDD):

The building is a fairly new administrative division in the University of the West Indies. This Unit falls under the Office of the Deputy Principal and was started in 2006 as a part of the University’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to all students. The SLDD offers two main services which are: Providing Academic Support to students of the UWI St. Augustine campus at all levels of their academic career, and ensuring equal access (infrastructure/academic) to all students who enter the University system with a disability. Furthermore, 2016 has made it one decade since this department has been operational thus, our group decided to analyse the implementation of occupational safety and health practices both inside and outside the building of this unit.

A risk assessment was conducted where we identified the varying hazards that existed; namely physical, biological, chemical, ergonomic and psychological. Additionally, we investigated if necessary requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of T&T as amended 2006 were being met. These include safety, health, welfare and fire provisions of the Act. 

RISK ASSESSMENT

  • Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are the most common hazards around us and are more than likely present in most, if not all industrial establishments. Examples of this type of hazard include: constant loud noise, vibrations, heat stress and trip and fall.

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Image 1 illustrates physical hazards in the footpath for workers



The Employer has responsibilities to the employee that he must uphold according to the OSH Act. Image 1 depicts the crudely constructed bridge over an open trench that workers must traverse daily. Firstly, this bridge is not fastened to the ground but instead simply placed over the gap. This can shift and cause a serious fall to occur. Secondly, the open trench contains protruding metal rods that can cause serious damage to anyone that falls into them. These should be covered as soon as possible to limit the risk to persons. Finally, the bridge contains no hand rails. This means a person has no way of steadying themselves if they become unbalanced on the bridge.

 

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Image 2 illustrates worker wearing improper head gear and absence of eye wear

The OSH Act, as stipulated in Section 23 (1) gives clear guidelines about the use of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when on a job site. These guidelines are present in law to prevent persons working on the site and those visiting, from being physically hurt in a myriad of ways. However, these PPEs can only be effective if they are used in their intended purpose. The pictures attached show that the employer has indeed provided his workers with PPE such as fluorescent vests, boots, gloves and eye-glasses but some workers were not using the PPE in an effective manner and thus, exposed themselves to physical hazards. Image 3 below shows that although the worker is wearing his vest, he is not wearing gloves to protect his hands from abrasions and cuts, neither is he wearing his eye wear properly exposing his eyes to damage from dust and flying debris. Image 2 shows a worker accurately using his gloves and vest however he was not wearing the correct headgear and thus was exposing his head to physical harm. Both images show that the workmen aren’t wearing any face masks to protect themselves against dust. Extended exposure to inhaled dust can cause sensitization of the respiratory membranes leading to asthma, allergies or bronchitis, (Johnson, 2016).

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Image 3 depicts the absence of head gear and gloves. The worker is also not wearing protective eye wear

RECOMMENDATIONS

Our investigations show that while OSH is being implemented at the job site there is still room for improvement. Proper implementation of the OSH principles would reduce the risk of job site injuries tremendously. A safety officer should be assigned to the site to ensure full compliance to the requirements of the Act at all times. For instance, ensuring that the workers wear their personal protective equipment where necessary.

  • Biological Hazards

Biological hazards are organic material that potentially have the ability to harm or kill living things such as human beings and other living organisms. Most firms look past this hazard leaving the public, their employees and themselves at risk.

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Image 4 shows a very clean eating area where the employees enjoy their meals

The assessment of the biological hazards within this firm was favourable, meaning the firm went beyond required measures to reduce possible risk. They provided a separate room for employees to warm or prepare their meals and a dining room where employees were able to sit and enjoy their meals.

Individually, these rooms are spacious, clean and well equipped with sanitizing material. Clean counter tops, the provision of hand washing liquid, access to a clean supply of running water are all examples of how the firm limits exposure to organic material that could possibly cause/spread diseases, viruses, infections and possibly even death.

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Image 5 illustrates a sanitizer dispenser 

 

 

This organization teaches its employees the importance of human hygiene. Each bathroom within the department is not only clean, but offers its users the luxury of utilizing sanitizing dispensers, strategically placed on doors of the bathroom, on the wall beside the sink and the utility room entrance reducing the possible risk of individuals being exposed or exposing others to bacteria that can be harmful to them.

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  • Chemicals Hazards

Chemicals hazards are injuries and or illnesses that can be caused by chemicals within an organization. Dish washing liquid, hand soap and all other cleaning solutions may seem to be harmless to the naked eye but when investigated closely, one can see that the misuse of any of these chemicals can lead to major reactions and cause major issues.

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Image 7 illustrates a sink area with dish washing liquids and lack of rubber dish washing gloves

The kitchen the company provided for its employees is clean and well equipped with cleaning solutions. Unfortunately, the firm failed to supply the suitable complementary material for employees to use with the cleaning supplies. The lack of rubber dish washing gloves exposes its users to the chemicals within the cleaning product. Persons can suffer hand burns, skin cancer and even allergic reactions from coming into contact with the material.

 

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Image 8  depicts cleaning supplies in a separate room known as the “Store Room”

 

Fortunately, the firm properly stored most of its strong cleaning chemicals and supplies in a room that was properly labelled. The storing of such hazardous material in a secured room limits human contact with such products and reduces the risk individuals within this firm could possibly have faced if these materials were not properly secured.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

There were little risks with respect to chemical hazards. Therefore, the management and staff of the SLDD should continue to safeguard themselves from this type of hazard by actively utilizing their store room. However, we recommend that they assess the toxicity of each cleaning material they use and ensure appropriate protective gear is provided for employee use such as rubber dish washing gloves.

 

  • Ergonomic Hazards

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Image 9 depicts seating for indoor workers

According to the University of Chicago’s study on Environmental Health & Safety, Ergonomic hazards refer to workplace conditions that pose the risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system of the worker. It was seen in the SLDD building that sufficient seating was provided for those who worked inside the building. However, some employees, when asked, complained of back pains due to the type of seating and the amount of time they were required to sit to do work.

Another thing that was noticed was that the University provided these employees in this department with a spacious work area, thus, ‘confined space’ was not something that they had to worry about.

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Image 10 depicts a spacious indoor work area

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Image 11  depicts insufficient seating for construction workers

Although adequate seating was provided for workers inside the building, it can’t be said that the same was provided for the construction workers outside the building. We see in Image 11 that there is limited seating available for the workers and that one of the two seats available, is actually being used as a stand for their water cooler. This perhaps would lead workers into sitting on the ground or wherever they find a spot which may cause strain to their backs, necks and other parts of their bodies.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The University should look into providing for the indoor staff, more ergonomically comfortable seats which would result in less strain to their backs and other body parts especially when they have to work for long hours. Another recommendation could be to provide more chairs for the construction workers which would prevent them from sitting on the ground or on any other inappropriate surface when taking a break or having lunch.

 

  • Psychological Hazards

During the period of construction, the workers of the Student Life and Development Department building were still required to work through all of the noise, the dust and also the inconvenience. Due to this, stress arose amongst the workers as they were very uncomfortable working under these conditions. The noise level was very distracting and it was extremely hard for them to concentrate on their required duties under these conditions. Workplace stress can lead to anxiety, aggression, poor decision making skills, absenteeism, and low productivity. Therefore, as small as it may seem, stress is a very important factor that organizations should avoid within their organizations as it affects it all around.

In addition to the noise level effects from the construction, we conducted brief interviews with members of the staff and they also complained about the workload as they are currently understaffed. Therefore, most days even without the noise level of the construction workers, they experienced some level of stress.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to avoid workplace stress happening again due to work done outside of the building, the manager should ensure that all of the employees are to be transferred into another building for the duration of any of the building’s construction. Moreover, giving the construction men their freedom to perform their duties and also the employees of the building would be in a peaceful environment until their building repairs are done.

 

The OSH Act

  • Safety

Safety is the condition of being protected from anything that could cause hazards, threats, and injury to someone. After taking a closer look at the OSH Act, the University of the West Indies was able to meet most of the requirements needed for the safety of its staff.

As it pertains to section IV number 32, Protective “clothing and devices”, the workers in the building met the standards required by the Act for a safe working environment to prevent any hazards. However, the workers outside of the building failed to meet the requirements. Some of the workers worked with no gloves as they continued to dig the drains. The wearing of gloves could aid in the prevention of cuts while lifting rough objects like bricks, and while interacting with objects with sharp protrusions like steel and wood.

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Image 12  portrays a worker wearing no safety gloves while dealing with electrical lines

 

Another safety issue is that these workers worked in close proximity to electrical lines. Some of the workers had on proper gloves but some did not have on appropriate electrical gear to work with electrical wires while digging the drain. This was another important safety issue. Additionally, the employer should provide proper work gears for all his workers and should also ensure that all workers wear it to prevent any accidents from happening.

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Image 13 shows a worker wearing no safety mask or protective eye wear to prevent dust 

 

 

 

In section VI “the Removal of Dust and Fumes”, both the workers inside the building and outside the building were forced to work in the dusty environment. Neither the workers inside nor outside had on proper working gear, such as ventilation/dust masks as they continued to work. The dust mask would have prevented the persons from inhaling the dust on a daily basis. This amount of dust inhaled is unsafe and could affect the workers in both the long term and the short term with diseases such as respiratory diseases.

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Image 14 shows a worker wearing no face mask to prevent the inhalation of dust nor gloves to protect his hands 

In Image 14 above, you could see the dirt dug by the workers on the sight. There were no nets or any other item used to cover the dirt. As a result of this, the dust could easily travel with the wind to the workers as well as staff and students who park in close proximity to the work site on a daily basis. It can also be seen that the worker in Image 14 above, is shoveling the dirt without a face mask or gloves on. This lack of personal protective equipment was the norm on the site.

RECOMMENDATIONS

We recommend that the employer  puts a system in place for example, hiring a safety officer, to ensure that the workers wear their protective gears at all times while they are working.

 

  • Health

The OSH Act states, under Section 32 of the Health Regulations that ‘Respiratory protection of an approved standard shall be provided and maintained, where necessary, for use by all persons in the industrial establishment.’ A respirator is a protective device that covers the nose and mouth or the entire face to guard the wearer against hazardous atmospheres. Employees require respirators to work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where harmful fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapours, sprays or in this case, dusts are present.

Respirators protect workers against these health hazards which may cause cancer, lung impairment or even death. The Act requires employers to provide an effective respirator for use by all persons to protect against workplace hazards. Different hazards require different respirators, and employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator.

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Image 15  depicts a worker wearing an improper respirator mask

Image 15 shows a construction worker without a respirator mask. Some were even seen, as in the same image, with their own personalized respirators which entailed covering their nose and mouths with a t-shirt. Having that type of respirator is equivalent to having a defective or damaged respirator which is almost as good as wearing no respirator at all.

The employees inside the building were subjected to a variety of irritating sounds from work being conducted on the outside of the building. These sounds not only contributed to stress and loss of concentration in the workplace, but it can also cause hearing impairment depending on how high the level of sound is. The Act states, under Section 34, that ‘Every owner, occupier or employer shall take adequate steps to prevent hearing impairment caused by noise, and diseases caused by vibration, from occurring to persons in, or in the vicinity of, his industrial establishment…..’ This means that the employers have a duty to protect employees from the risk associated with excessive noise. In this case employees were placed at risk of hearing damage from the noise at work. Imagine working in a building where digging and pounding was going on right outside the door. This is what the employees were exposed to on a day-to-day basis.

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Image 16  depicts a sledgehammer that contributed to noise

Ventilation is another very important aspect when dealing with health and safety in the workplace. Proper ventilation provides clean air drawn from an external source outside of the workplace and circulated throughout the building. These sources include natural or fresh air or by a functioning air conditioning system, in which it dilutes and removes humid air and provides sufficient air movement to give a feeling of freshness without causing a draught.

In addition to proper ventilation, companies also need to ensure that their workplaces are maintained at an appropriate temperature. The weather to date can be very unpredictable. Some days there is heavy rain which leaves the place extremely cold and some days the weather is scorching hot. This can increase the level of carbon dioxide and decrease the level of oxygen which in turn can cause fatigue, headaches, sinus congestion, dizziness, shortness of breath and can affect the employee’s ability to concentrate. A proper working ventilation system is then needed to accommodate this.

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Image 17 portrays a proper ventilation system which is subject to occasional break downs

At first glance the air conditioning system seen in Image 17 looks like a well-functioning system but it was said by the employees inside the building that it was prone to occasional break downs. Thus, employers did adhere to some extent the regulations stipulated in the Act under Section 36 which states ‘Every occupier of an industrial establishment that is not ventilated by a functioning air-conditioning system shall secure and maintain therein adequate and suitable ventilation by the circulation of fresh air.’

RECOMMENDATIONS

Poor ventilation is a hazard. And like all hazards, it poses a risk to one’s health and safety and thus, must be eliminated or controlled. In cases such as this when the air conditioning system is not functioning properly, especially in extremely hot weather temperatures, installing fans in specific areas of the work room can be a solution to eliminate or minimize the effects of the heat.

 

  • Welfare

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Image 18 shows that there is  adequate,  clean and cool drinking water provided

In terms of the welfare provisions specified in the OSH Act, it was found that The University of the West Indies met some of the regulations identified. The Act states under S. 39 (1) that, “In every factory, effective arrangements shall be made to provide and maintain at suitable points conveniently situated for all persons employed therein, sufficient supply of cool, wholesome drinking water.”  It is clear that provisions were made for both employees working inside the building as well as the construction workers.

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Image 19 shows a very clean washroom area with accompanying soaps and suitable hand dryers

It was found that the University did in fact provide washing facilities in accordance with S.40 of the Act which states, “The occupier of every factory shall provide and maintain separately for men and women employed therein, adequate, clean and easily accessible washing facilities, which are provided with soap and suitable hand drying materials or devices and such other provisions as are prescribed.”

Additionally, to some extent, the University also complied with the provisions stated under S. 45 (1), “In every factory the occupier shall provide and maintain for the persons employed therein, adequate and suitable restrooms or lunchrooms and lunchrooms shall be convenient for the eating of meals and shall be provided with adequate lighting, ventilation and drinking water.”  This is so because only lunchroom and restroom facilities were made available to persons working inside the building and no facilities were made available to the construction workers. Therefore, the construction workers were forced to take lunch in the area where they work. This is extremely unsanitary and dangerous as the area could possible contain biological and chemical hazards.

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Image 20 depicts a worker eating on the site

It is also important to note that there were no First Aid appliances present within this building. This is in fact a direct violation of the Act under S. 43 (1) which states that, “In every factory, there shall be provided and maintained so as to be readily accessible during all working hours, such number of fully equipped first-aid boxes of cupboards as may be prescribed.” This presents a serious problem in the event that an accident occurs. Furthermore, as the building is also a construction site, first aid appliances are a necessity.

The University did, to some extent, adhere to the regulations stated under S.5 (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (Welfare) Regulations which states, “Where any employed persons have in the course of their employment reasonable opportunities for sitting without detriment to their work, there shall be provided and maintained for their use, suitable facilities for sitting sufficient to enable them to take advantage of those opportunities.”

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There was adequate seating for workers inside the building but not enough for the construction workers outside of the building as seen in the slideshow above. Of the two seats seen in the picture present outside the building, one of them acted as a stand for the workers’ water cooler. This is a clear indication that there was neither adequate nor suitable seating provided for these construction workers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In light of the findings, some obvious recommendations would be to have a first aid box which would aid in the prevention or worsening of any injuries. Additionally, the construction workers should be provided with better seating arrangements and should not be eating in the same place where they work. Perhaps a tent a decent distance away with a table and sufficient seating could be provided for the workmen to have lunch where it’s much cleaner and safer.

 

  • Fire

The industrial establishment in question properly implemented the fire provisions of the OSH Act with respect to means of escape in case of a fire and adequate fire fighting equipment. Even though the fire section which is part V of the Act does not apply to this industrial establishment, it is impressive that they still comply with its provisions which will mitigate all risks encountered as a result of a fire. There are many exits which indicate that the employees in the building are well prepared to escape a fire.

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Image 24 portrays a door in the kitchen area of the building as a means of exit in the case of a fire

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Image 23 portrays the main emergency exit in the building

 

Image 23 above shows that there is an exit in the main area of the building, which is the Emergency Exit and it is wide enough to accommodate all of the employees. Also, the emergency exit is clear of any obstructions which may slow down the escape process. Additionally, there is an exit in the kitchen area of the building, as shown in image 24 above.  It shall also be noted that the doors that are provided for use as fire exits are, while work is in progress left unlocked, and is secured in such a way as to be capable of being readily and quickly opened from the inside. It was reiterated by the Health and Safety Authority of the US that all workplaces must have clearly identified means of escape in the event of fire. These escape routes must be kept clear at all times to ensure that everyone can exit the workplace in the event of a fire or other emergency, (2016 Health & Safety Authority).

There are also ample fire extinguishers in the building. Therefore, members of staff are well equipped to protect themselves in the event of a blaze.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

We therefore recommend that all members of staff be well educated on how to use the fire extinguishers and that fire drills be practised every now and then, since an interview conducted with one member of staff, revealed that they never had a fire drill before. However, they are well protected to guard themselves against any arm from a fire and they should continue implementing and adhering to these safety and health laws.

Conclusively, it was clear that this department made it their legal and moral duty to implement key OSH practices to their unit. However, it was evident that aspects of the office can be improved to minimize risks as low as practically possible. We recommend that these paramount improvements be addressed immediately so that health and safety will no longer be compromised.

Always remember – “Precaution is better than cure”. ~Edward Coke

Sincerely,

Accident Free 🙂

CITATIONS

  • OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT 2004 AS AMENDED 2006

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3079/osha3079.html

http://www.takeonestep.org/Pages/yoursafety/safenotsorry/workplacehazards.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/asthmatic-bronchitis-symptoms-treatment

http://safety.uchicago.edu/tools/faqs/ergonomics.shtml

https://www.google.tt/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=safety+

http://www.workplacesafetyadvice.co.uk/ventilation-in-the-workplace.html

http://www.hsa.ie/eng/topics/fire/emergency_escape_and_fire_fighting/

 

 

 

You are all welcome to share your thoughts with us because only with feedback, we’ll know if we have educated you on safety and health issues.

 


Beasts of No Nation

 

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Introduction

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

Synopsis of Movie:     

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

Hazards Discovered

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

Physical Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Figure 1: Aftermath of an explosion in the village.

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

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

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

Ergonomic Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychological Hazards

Psychological hazards are identified as “any hazard that affects the mental well-being or mental health of the worker by overwhelming individual coping mechanisms and impacting the worker’s ability to work in a healthy and safe manner” (Physiotherapy Alberta- n.d.).  There is no denying that there were numerous psychological hazards which could have affected not only those who fought in the civil war, but also those who were forced to flee from their village and depart from their loved ones indefinitely.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Figure 8 : Agu having nightmares at night when asleep

Biological Hazards

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

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

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

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

Fire Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

Chemical Hazards

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

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Figure 12:  The explosions created by bombs in community areas 

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

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

Conclusion

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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UWI is ‘RISKY’ Businesss 😎

Hey You!

   Yes You…..

I want you to stop for a second and consider, are you entirely safe from risks of any type when you attend classes at your beloved University of the West Indies (St. Augustine)?

Well, we the members of Coloured hair hazard are here to inform you, each day you arrive at home safely from classes at U.W.I, is a gThey. Why do we say this? Well we have conducted a risk assessment which comprehensively outlines several hazards located in particular classrooms and lecture theatres.

Before we move on to the actual risk assessment, do you know what a risk assessment is?

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational health and safety, Risk assessment is the process where you:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Analyze or evaluate the risk associated with that hazard.
  • Determine appropriate ways to eliminate or control the hazard.

In practical terms, a risk assessment is a thorough look at your workplace/premise to identify those things, situations, processes, etc that may cause harm, particularly to people. After identification is made, you evaluate how likely and severe the risk is, and then decide what measures should be in place to effectively prevent or control the harm from happening.

So why conduct a risk assessment?

Firstly, because team Coloured hair hazard is concerned with all possible elements which are not considered as harmful by the average student, but are indeed harmful. At the end of the day we are a group that love our fellow colleagues and so we rather see you informed rather than not. The main reasons anyone conducts a risk assessment, however, are as follows:

Risk assessments are very important as they form an integral part of a good occupational health and safety management plan. They help to:

  • Create awareness of hazards and risks.
  • Identify who may be at risk (employees, cleaners, visitors, contractors, the public, etc).
  • Assess the severity of the risks.
  • Determine if existing control measures are adequate or if more should be done.
  • Prevent injuries or illnesses when done at the design or planning stage.
  • Prioritize hazards, control measures and keep record of risk.

Therefore, the aim of the risk assessment process is to remove a hazard or reduce the level of its risk by adding precautions or control measures, as necessary. By doing so, you have created a safer and healthier workplace/premise.

TLC

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Figure 1: The photo above shows Teachers Learning Complex (TLC) at UWI

In our research we found TLC to be the lowest rated risk area in the school. We gave it a risk rating of an ‘E’, one shy of an almost perfect rating of an ‘F’, seeing that we actually identified two hazards which could lead to potential risks. Firstly, to identify the hazards, the main hazards discovered were ergonomic and physical in nature.

Ergonomic Hazard: In our assessment of TLC lecture theatre C and lecture theatre A we discovered the seating was a tad bit too close. Hence several times we discovered if a person wanted to get into a seat within a row which was occupied by a couple of people it would be generally difficult to get to the that seat. It would also cause a great degree of discomfort to persons already seated, as they may have to shift all of their belongings or in some cases get out of their seat entirely.

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Figure 2: The photo above shows the closeness of seating can be deemed a risk worthy hazard

Evaluating the risk:

  1. What is the hazard? – Ergonomic by nature, it deals with the poor spacing between seats which results in persons having difficulty getting to their desired seat.
  2. Who does it affect and how? – This issue affects each student that has a class in any lecture theatre in TLC. It would mean that they would always have trouble getting to seats particularly in the middle and they would generally disrupt others in doing so.
  3. Level of risk? – We felt that this hazard did not merit too much risk as it solely inconvenienced the seated party. However, it did not even affect the seated party as in some cases, individuals were able to remain seated and allow others to pass by to seats located in the middle.
  4. Do control measures exist and should any be implemented? – Control measures do not exist as it’s a minor issue which generally isn’t given much attention. I guess individuals are simply happy with being bothered each time someone else needs to pass by. The control measure which should be implemented is a system for filling up the lecture theatre. The management team of TLC or the lecturer at the time should implement a system where individuals come in and sit in the middle seats firstly. This would ensure that no one is disturbed by persons attempting to get to middle seats, in particular during lectures.
  5. Is it high priority? – Generally speaking this issue is not high priority because there aren’t enough complaints about the issue by the students,  however these issues should be monitored to ensure that they don’t cause extreme harm.

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Figure 3: The picture above illustrates the typical ergonomic issue. Redman is a slouch and most evident he is the odd guy out who doesn’t want to move while Green arrow wants to get to the seat just past him. As a result, he has to cross over him, how unfair to the great green arrow.

Physical HazardIn conducting our risk assessment on the lecture theatres of we discovered possible risk factors associated. The first hazard is the possibility of an individual losing his/her footstep due to the oddly crafted staircases in the lecture theatres. The second issue is a person’s visibility being obscured due to the odd positioning of some of the lights in the theatre, along with the underutilization altogether, of the lights.

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Figure 4: The photo above shows an irregularly patterned staircase at a lecture theatre in TLC.

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Figure 5:The photo above shows a lighting system which is generally not utilized, and as such hinders or obscures the views of students at times.

Evaluating the risk:

  1. What is the hazard? – Physical by nature, it deals with the inconsistent design of the staircase. Although it enables the staircase to be flatter, the different design to an average staircase can possibly result in physical pain. (i.e. twisting of one’s ankle) The issue of the lighting may possibly hinder students. It can also, in the long run, result in individuals having optical issues.
  2. Who does it affect and how? – This issue affects each student that has a class in any lecture theatre in TLC. There is the possible risk of individuals facing unfortunate leg injuries. The poor lighting on the other hand may possibly result, in some cases, in individuals having visual issues in the future.
  3. Level of risk? – These hazards are not really risky. This is evident as there generally have never been any unfortunate mishaps of this nature regardless of the staircase placement or the lack of usage/positioning of the lighting technology.
  4. Do control measures exist and which should be implemented? – Control measures do not exist as it it’s a minor issue which generally isn’t given much attention. I guess individuals are simply happy with being bothered each time someone else needs to pass by. A control measure which should be implemented for the staircase issue, however, should be that management should place signs stating that students should be sure to utilize hand rails.
  5. Is it high priority? – Generally speaking this issue is not high priority because there aren’t enough complaints about the issue by the students, however these issues should be monitored to ensure that they don’t cause extreme harm.

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Figure 6: Above illustrates the manner in which the lights should be operating to ensure optimal viewer-ability of the students.

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Figure 7: Above illustrates the possible risk of not properly utilizing the handrails, all due to the irregular positioning of the staircases.

Altogether TLC is generally extremely compliant with the stipulations of and therefore surely consider proper risks where possible hazards are concerned. However, just maybe it’s because TLC was completed after the initial release of the OSH act in 2004. As opposed to almost every other building at U.W.I St. Augustine. 😢

Centre for Language Learning (CLL) Building- Tutorial Room

Physical hazard

At CLL various physical hazards could be found  or THEY COULD FIND YOU IF YOU AREN’T ALERT OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS! The first hazard found was open electrical units (see figure 8). The second hazard was the possibility of being struck by or against a television position directly above the seating area (see figure 9). The third hazard was possibly falling over wires that ran between the classroom desks (see figure 10).

Electrical hazards

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Figure 8: Above shows an open electrical unit at CLL

According to the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association electrical hazards are a dangerous condition where a worker could make electrical contact with energized equipment or a conductor, and from which the person may sustain an injury from shock and burn.

Evaluating the risk-

In some of UWI classrooms open electrical outlets with visible wires were seen as a hazard, if these wires were bare it would put students/ lecturers/ tutors at high risk of getting shocked or burn if they touch it. EVEN THOUGH AS ADULTS WE SHOULD KNOW NOT TO TOUCH THESE THINGS, SOMETIMES CURIOSITY GETS THE BEST OF US….AND AS THEY SAY CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT OR IN THIS INSTANCES SHOCKS THE CATS.

A person with knowledge in this area and responsible for maintenance of electrical units at the university should ensure that outlets are secure and covered, as well as have regular checks to ensure that electrical units are not tampered with.

Just in case curiosity gets the best of you here is a link for some treatments http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/electric-shock#3-6 however, prevention is better here is a link for that as well http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/electric-shock#3-8.

Struck-by Hazards

According to the OSHA Training Institution (2011) struck-by injuries are produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment.

Evaluating the risk-

In this class at CLL a television/ monitor is positioned directly above the seating area for students is a struck-by hazard because if for some reason the structure that connects the television to the wall becomes unstable, there is a possibility that the monitor/ TV could fall on someone/student’s head and injure them e.g. they could get a concussion or a more severe injury like a serious head trauma.

The severity of this injury depends on three factors the velocity of the impact e.g. how fast the television falls, the characteristics of the object e.g. the TV and the body part impacted e.g. the head

Aside from this type of hazard a student could bump their head on the monitor as they are about to sit or stand in the seat directly beneath the TV (struck-against). To reduce these hazards the TV could be removed by a trained UWI staff and positioned at another location in the classroom or the chairs and table be moved away from the monitor. Students should stay  AHEAD of this hazard and ensure that the matter be dealt with as they are the ones at risks.

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Figure 9: Shown above is a television hanging directly above seats

Fall Hazard

Evaluating the risk-

What is the hazard? -Running Wires on floor which could cause person walking  in the class to fall.

Who might be harmed? – Students and teachers most likely runs the risk of being harmed as they are the one who basically utilizes the classroom, however it runs a risk to anyone else visiting the classroom.

What is the risk level?  The likelihood of someone tripping over these wires are minimum as on most occasions you may be alert, however if someone does trip over they run the risk of getting severe bodily damages.

What is the risk control measures? – The wire could be positioned closer to the walls so persons wouldn’t be tripped or the wires could be run underground. there should also be a recording of the measures put in place a well as continually seeking ways to improve them.

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Figure 10: Shown above is running wire on floor in tutorial room

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Figure 11: The above shows seats offering poor back support

 

Ergonomic Hazard

What is the Hazard? -The seats offer poor back support when one is required write on the desk attached to the chair.

Who might be harmed?- The persons affected by this hazard are mainly students, however anyone who sits in these seats could become a victim of strains on the back muscle,  shoulders and arms from continuously leaning over to write notes. This can cause long terms pains to the back..

What is the risk level? – This is a medium risk level due to the fact that students and others could position themselves in a way to avoid strain.
What is the risk Control? – The university  could replace these seats with ones that have better support to the body. Persons sitting in these seats could also position themselves in a matter to avoid strain.

Psychological hazard

Overcrowding and anxiety

As mentioned some of the university’s seating designs create overcrowding (ergonomic hazards). Some of the seating arrangements (the circle arrangement) which are aimed at facilitating and encouraging discussion/communication, participation and learning also can become a psychological hazard for some of the students with social phobia/ social anxiety disorder. According to WebMD social anxiety disorder also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others. To help reduce the high risk of this hazard with these students who face this phobia they could inform their tutor/lecturer of their condition and change classroom and or seek psychological help from the university counsellor.

For information on how social phobia is treated click this link http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-social-anxiety-disorder?page=3#1

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Figure 12: The circle seating arrangement at CLL which could cause anxiety in persons with social phobia.

 

 

Temporary Classroom Building 2 (TCB 2)

Physical Hazard

 

Evaluating the risk-

This a a high risk situation as it is the norm in TCB to have the malfunctioning air conditioning. This situation in the classroom poses many risks as students cannot focus on what is being taught,  teachers dismiss classes earlier than expected, student leave class before the lecture is over, all negatively  impacting on the person’s education and poses many health risks. This can be prevented if the air conditioners were working or placing windows in the classrooms for proper ventilation.

 

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Fig 13: Above is a opened classroom door as the Air Conditioner is not working.

Ergonomic hazard

An Ergonomic hazard is a physical factor in the environment that harms the musculus-skeletal system.

Evaluation the risk-

Many students and teachers are exposed to this hazard in the TCB mainly due to the damaged furniture and lack of furniture. Many of the chairs provided for students are damaged, making students sit in very uncomfortable and risky posture for a two to three hour lecture. Teachers face this hazard by standing continuously for the same two to three hour lecture, which must take a toll on their body. Experiencing these conditions on a regular basis affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. This is a moderately risky situation as there are good chairs also.  There are many health disorders related to this hazard which include epicondylitis and tendinitis. To reduce the chance of injury, broken chairs should be repaired or replaced in a prompt manner, work tasks should be designed to limit exposure to ergonomic risk factors, teachers should also have a chair to sit at times.

 

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Fig 14: Above shows broken chair at TCB.

Biological hazards

Biological hazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans.

Evaluating the risk-

Biological hazards pose great risks for persons occupying TCB because of the many adverse health effects.  TCB is a biological hazard because as mentioned the air conditioners are problematic, and this can be because they are not serviced or cleaned properly. When the air conditioner works properly for one day and the next day it blows hot air, trapped water together with humidity  will cause mold to accumulate inside of the air conditioner.  This is a high risk situation as this can affect persons which are not even aware they are breathing in mold. Air conditioner mold can spread throughout the classroom once it is on and exposure to mold can lead to numerous health problems because most biological agents are inhaled which causes respiratory disorders and allergic reactions. Prevention of  the development of mold in the first place is what should be done, by letting the relevant persons regularly service the air conditioners in a manner that will keep them working properly reducing the hazard.

Many hazards are faced in the Temporary Classroom Building affecting all who occupy it negatively. However to reduce these risks these hazards pose is simple, if proper maintenance in done.

Psychological Hazards

Noise and distraction

I KNOW MOST UWI STUDENTS HAVE EXPERIENCED THIS BEFORE. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN ONE OF THE UNIVERSITY CLASSROOMS AND REALIZED THAT THE SOUND OF THE AIR CONDITIONING UNIT AND THE LECTURER’S VOICE WERE COMPETING FOR YOUR ATTENTION? This competition can be heard in TCB.

Evaluating the risk-

The AC unit distraction have become such a norm at UWI that many of us no longer hear it. Is this habitation (when you no longer respond to a repeated stimuli e.g. AC unit) or is it secretly harming us? According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, ambient noise also affects people’s health by increasing general stress levels and aggravating stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, peptic ulcers and migraine headaches. Continued exposure does not lead to habituation; in fact, the effects worsen. OH MY GOSHHH UWI IS CONSCIOUSLY AND UNCONSCIOUSLY STRESSING US OUT…… WHATTTTT!!!

Prolong exposure to the loud AC unit greatly affects our health as it relates to stress. To reduce this risk the university needs to get professionals to service the units around campus or replace them if needed and once fixed maintained should be regular.

To read more about noise and distraction click this link https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ask-the-brains-background-noise/

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Figure 15: The above show the AC unit which noise comes from

C4 building and the Student Activity Centre (SAC) Study Room.

Physical hazards

Evaluating the risk-

As a result of poor electrical practices, can inflict burns, injury or electrocution to the members of the student population as the result of open and exposed live wire. The classrooms examined are occupied by a variety of students, some of which may be unaware of the hazards in their immediate surroundings. For example, the increase use of smart devices among students would result in the in the need for an electric port to recharge said device. If a student uses the port in figure 15 he/she could be sustain serious injuries.

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Fig 16: The above shows the electrical plugs available in the Student Activity Study Room

“Working on equipment may result in removal of components and parts that provide protection for people against electric shock when the equipment is in normal use”[1] The images show that after the tinkering with electrical wiring by workers. It can clearly be observed that the necessary wires were not properly placed back in their respective positions. To reduce the level of risk posed to the students these electrical sockets and live wires must be adequately labelled and identifiable by the student. For example, the bellow image shows some of the signs available in the C4 building to communicate safety to the students of the Nuclear Magnetic Radiation Room.

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Fig 17: Shows the signs displayed on the entrance of the Nuclear Magnetic Radiation Room.

In the risk assessment of the University these signs were placed to warn students of the dangers of the room which shows the high severity of risk. However, as each individual have a different level of resistance to the flow of current within their body for the prevention of injury it should be established that electrical insulation are checked regularly and maintained by a  competent individual. A data entry or log book should be kept to indicate the last inspection of these electrical components.

The risk assessment of the C4 building and SAC study room may be subjected to change. These classrooms have not been recently modified and the level of voltages supplies to an area might unable to withstand the demands if the electrical equipment.

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Fig 18: Shows proper labeling of electric sources in the C4 building as well as exposed

 

 

 

 

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.” Plant, birds, humans, bacteria, insects and viruses are the agents of this hazard which are living organisms that spread harmful substance.

At SAC building right above the classrooms doors bat and bird droppings could be seen. There is the possibility that some of these droppings could have landed on the door handles which is in constant contact with students’ hands who have classes at this location. This contact could lead to serious skin infection and illness if contaminated hands touches food which then enters the mouth and body. To deal with this extreme risk to students and staff and anyone else who comes in contact with these dropping the university could get persons who have knowledge in this area give them advice on how to deal with the issue, as well as help get rid of the bats and birds and put measures in place to keep them away. The students could also wash and sanitize their hands regular when they come in contact with SAC facilities and properties.

 

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Figure 19: Bio-hazard-Bird feces at the top

 of SAC classroom door.

Work cited

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

Risk Assessment. “OSH Answers Fact Sheets.” Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Canada. CA, 2016. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

“Social Anxiety Disorder.” WebMD. n.d. http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-social-anxiety-disorder. Accessed 24 Oct, 2016.

“Electric Shock.” WebMD. n.d. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/electric-shock#3-6. Accessed 24 Oct, 2016.

Rugg, Michael., Andrews, Mark A. W. “How does background noise affect our concentration?” Scientific American (2010). https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ask-the-brains-background-noise/. Accessed 24 Oct, 2016.

“Physical Hazards.” Australian Government Comcare

https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/physical_hazards.  Accessed 24 Oct, 2016.

[1] “Electricity at Work – Safe Working Practices – Guidance …” N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

 


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How dangerous is a ‘wash, cut and style’? Tips for hair stylists & clients.

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Image source: (Edwards, 2015)

 

Many people visit hair salons for a hairstyle, a haircut, hair treatment or a wash, but how many of us take time to observe the various health and safety hazards that are present at salons? Likewise, how many beauticians have considered the hazards that surround their workspaces? Many may even be guilty of inadvertently creating these hazards. Such hazards can range from failure to sterilize equipment which can result in bodily infections, to overloading electrical outlets which can place appliance users at risk for electric shock. In this blog, we examined five common hazards present at most local and international salons, namely chemical, physical, mechanical, ergonomic, electrical (which falls under the category of physical) and biological hazards; provided tips on how workers and employers can deal with these five hazards; and also provided tips on how clients can spot these hazards. The discussion will be centred on the risk management hierarchy of controls which refers to a sequence of various procedures which can be implemented to either eliminate or alleviate a hazard. Don’t worry, there’s no need to second guess your next hair salon appointment – provided that you bear these tips in mind, that is!

Hierarchy of controls.jpg

Image source: (Matthew, 2016)

Tips For Hair Salon Workers & Employers

Tip #1: How to deal with harsh chemicals

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Hair dye being applied to a client’s hair. Image source: (“Family Health Team”, 2015)

Hair salons often offer a variety of services, such as bleaching, dying, relaxing, tinting, perming, straightening and smoothing. These services expose the employees to harsh chemicals on a daily basis. Such chemicals can enter the body via inhalation or skin absorption. According to a study published by the Journal of Occupational Medicine, out of 170 workers chosen from 56 hair salons across Palestine, 19% reported suffering from respiratory symptoms at some point during their employment (Nemer et al., 2013). The study attributed the symptoms to their constant exposure to chemicals in salons.  Also, in a French study by Weber, Nevala and Mantouvalou (2011), it was found that, while hairdressers represent about 1 % of the entire workforce in France, 20% of women affected by work-related asthma are hairdressers. The table below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the chemicals that are present in products often used in hair salons and the potential effects they have on the human body.  

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Table of a chemicals found in hair salons and their potential effects on human body.    Source: (Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products, 2016)

flammable

Image source: (Paragon STL, n.d.)

Not only are these chemicals harmful if they enter the body, but they are also extremely flammable. For example, hairspray, one of the most common products in hair salons, contains a highly flammable agent called isopropyl alcohol. Hair mousse contains isobutane, propylene glycol and propane, both of which can cause a fire if either was to come into contact with an open flame.

So what should you do?

To determine the best measure a beautician should take to avoid the harmful effects of these chemicals, we can refer to the Hierarchy of Controls. If you are an employer or employee of a hair salon, you may choose to start at the top of the hierarchy. In doing so, you might want to eliminate the hazard by tailoring the services you offer do that you avoid any contact with harsh chemicals. On the other hand, this might not be economically feasible as limiting your services might result in loss of clients. If you were to move down the hierarchy, you might want to substitute the products you currently use for those without the harsh chemicals.

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Hair dye being prepared using disposable gloves. Image source: (Family Health Team, 2015)

If you find this difficult, you might want to isolate certain services in the salon to limit contact with the chemicals. For example, isolating hair dying and bleaching to an area away from the main floor of the salon. There is the option of engineering controls, such as ensuring proper ventilation of all areas of the salon. Administrative controls can also be of assistance, by developing and implementing policies and procedures for chemical handling, storage, usage and disposal. Ensuring that all staff members are well trained can also help to reduce the risk. And finally, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided to salon workers, for example provision of aprons and disposable gloves for use when mixing or applying hair dye, bleaches and other chemicals.

 

sliptripfall

Image source: (Seton, 2016)

Tip #2: How to avoid slip and trip hazards

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), over 300,000 cases of days away from work due to slips, trips and falls were reported in 2014. Slips and trips can occur in numerous ways. Often, it’s due to lack of traction between our shoes and walking surfaces. For beauticians, an accumulation of shorn hair on the floor or residue from hair products and sprays can become a slip hazard while loose cords on the floor from electrical tools, such as flat irons, blow dryers and curling irons can become a trip hazard.

So what should be done?

Salon employees should therefore clean the floors frequently, disposing of shorn hair and cleaning any residues that may make the floors slippery. Employees should also wear non-skid shoes. Cords should be tied up or taped down to reduce the risk of injury due to trips. Employers should avoid flooring with glazed or shiny finishes as this may increase chances of slips. Skid-resistant floors, which will provide more friction, might be preferred.

Tip #3: How to deal with ergonomic hazards

There are a myriad of ergonomic hazards present in the average hair salon. Hairdressers are often on their feet for almost the entire day. Standing for such long periods can potentially expose hairdressers to muscle and spine complications such as muscle fatigue, muscle strain, varicose veins and back pain.

So what should be done?

In order to rectify this issue, a hairstylist should ensure that the client sits on an adjustable chair so that the client and hairstylist are at levelled height. Levine and Gelb (2003) suggests that, in order to reduce fatigue and maintain poise when working on a client’s hair, stylists should use what is commonly known as a ‘hair cutting stool’ as opposed to standing. The photos below are an illustration of the do’s and don’ts of this ergonomic hazard.

In order to further reduce the risk of injury, the owner of the salon should consider adding anti-fatigue mats to areas in the salon that are used for tasks that involve long hours standing, such as around the client’s chair and in the shampoo area. Workers should also pay attention to the shoes that they wear. The preferred option should be to wear shoes with proper arch support and cushioning (Salaptek, 2014). In addition to providing the necessary equipment, employers should take the time to educate their workers about proper posture and the importance of tools such a hair cutting stool and how they help to reduce pain, fatigue and risk of injury.

image-source-ergonomics-simplified-2016

Awkward grip of utensils. Image source: (Ergonomics Simplified, 2016)

According to a publication by the European Agency for Safety and Health, any awkward gripping of work utensils together with constant sharp and forceful movements may result in problems with the elbow, wrist and hand (EU-OSHA, 2014). Such problems include carpal tunnel syndrome and damage to nerves and tendons from the forearm to the wrist.  The Agency suggests use of utensils with a bended or adjustable grip as these can keep the wrists straight. Additionally, training and instructions on the proper use of these tools are essential.

Another ergonomic hazard in hair salons comes by their use of towels. After washing a client’s hair, a hairdresser might wrap a towel around the client’s head and neck to absorb dripping water from the wet hair. These towels are then dumped into a basket which will later be laundered. As the basket becomes filled with wet towels, the weight increases, and salon workers might be inclined to bend and lift it when the time arrives to launder. Such lifting of heavy items is an ergonomic hazard.

According to the OSHA Technical Manual, published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Unit of the United States Department of Labour, back injuries can develop as a result of a single traumatic event, or as a result of gradual microtrauma caused over a period of time (Occupational Safety, 1993). The slow progress of gradual microtrauma leads is too often ignored until it the symptoms become acute. This type of microtrauma is what would be most often seen in hair salons as a result of lifting or manual handling of heavy towel baskets, and indeed any heavy items in the shop.

Our recommendations?

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Commercial grade rolling laundry basket. Image source: (Whitmor, 2016)

elevated-laundry-basket

Elevated laundry basket. Image source: (World Marker, 2016)

In using the Hierarchy of Controls to reduce the risk of serious back injury to workers, the option to eliminate the ergonomic hazard by discarding the practice of using baskets might be difficult as this is conventional and cost-effective practice, but employers can substitute the basket with one that does not require constant lifting, such as one with wheels. Additionally, employers might want to rotate employees to perform this task. In addressing the issue of back injuries in relation to heavy lifting, we recommend elevating the basket.

Not all lifting of heavy objects is bad for our health. Salon employees should be instructed on how to properly lift heavy objects and avoid back injury. They should also be constantly reminded by relevant signage (pictured below). 

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Tip #4: How to deal with electrical hazards

It is common for a large hair dryer or even a hand held hairdryer to be placed near the salon’s sink. At a hair salon, water and electrical items can come into close range of each other. To avoid, shock, burn and electrocution, employers and employers can implement the techniques below.  

GFCI.jpg

Image source: (“Ground Fault Circuit”, 2011)

In using the Hierarchy of Controls, an employer might choose to remove the hazard. While this may solve the problem, it might be impractical as many techniques performed in a hair salon require electrical appliances. A better choice might be engineering controls by installing ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets to maintain electrical safety and to secure the outlets that are likely to come in contact with water. There is also the option to isolate the hazard by rearranging, separating areas for washing from areas for styling with electrical appliances.

However, everyone has a part to play in health and safety, therefore salon workers should regularly inspect electrical cords and appliances for fraying or wear and tear, and ensure that they are tagged after testing so that substandard devices can be replaced. Regular inspections by a qualified electrician are also recommended. On a separate but pertinent point, salons should be outfitted with sufficient electrical outlets in order to prevent existing outlets from being overloaded.

Concerned about overloading of extension sockets? Here’s a video on ‘How to avoid overloading…’

Video Source: (247 Home Rescue, 2015)

Tip #5: How to deal with biological hazards

Salon workers use few tools for multiple clients. It is essential to ensure that their tools are properly sanitized to reduce the presence of biological hazards which can affect the scalp, hair and skin of one client and spread to another. By virtue of the nature of the job, it might be difficult to completely eliminate this hazard. However, moving down the hierarchy of controls to a viable solution brings us to administrative controls.

signage8

Proper hand washing procedure. Image source: (Pfuntuner, 2016)

 

 

Employees should be properly instructed and trained as to the importance and performance of sanitation practices and procedures. Cleaning of all equipment after use should be mandatory at the salon to avoid the spread of harmful pathogens and bacteria such as staphylococcus, scalp ringworm and parasites. Salon employees should also regularly wash their hands, with antibacterial soap, in an effort to reduce spreading of germs between clients and to themselves. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work suggests that, as a matter of routine, brushes, combs, scissors, razors and clippers etc., must be washed in hot soapy water and then immersed in disinfectant solution for 15-20 mins. One such disinfectants solution is barbicide which is a germicide, fungicide and virucide.

Tips For Hair Salon Clients

There are many hazards present in your average hair salon. We have mentioned above, a few serious hazards that are often overlooked by hair salon employees and employers. However, the hazards in a hair salon do not only affect the employees and employers, but they can also affect clients of the salon. If clients are not keeping a keen eye out they may not even notice hazards that may affect them until it is too late. If you are a client of a hair salon, then in an effort to prevent you from becoming a casualty of that salon, wish to provide you with tips on a few hazards that you should look out for on your next trip to the salon.

Tip #1: Look out for chemical hazards

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The air at a salon might be a chemical cocktail. Image source: (Oliver, 2013)

As the client, you should pay attention to what products are being used in your hair. It is your duty to ensure that the products used would not harm you in any way. You should also make sure that you are not allergic to any of the products by reading the labels of the products to have an understanding of their composition.

You should also take note of the use of any flammable products used in your hair (refer to the table above). If any such chemicals are used, you would need to make sure that you stay clear of any open flames until the chemical is cleansed from your hair.

Additionally, you should understand method of usage for any chemicals to be used on your hair in order to ensure that the hairdresser is using the product correctly. For example, it is important that the recommended time is not exceeded when having a perm or relaxer treatment in your hair as the product may cause damage to your hair and scalp or even burns and nerve damage. Further, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work emphasizes the importance of proper ventilation of the salon to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals. Therefore, you should make sure that your salon is well ventilated.

Tip #2: Look out for slip & trip hazards

It is important to pay attention while walking within the salon to ensure that you avoid any slips and trips. Pay attention to the hair which may be left on the floor as this causes a slippery surface. If there are loose cords on the floor, be wary and try to avoid them. You may also bring these loose cords to the attention of your hairdresser, pointing out the trip hazard which can endanger the workers of the salon and fellow customers, so that the issue might be rectified.

Tip #3: Look for ergonomic hazards

Not only are the employers or employees susceptible to ergonomic hazards but so too are the hair salon’s clients. Clients may experience discomfort due to the inappropriate furniture used at the hair salon. You should make sure that the chairs used for washing your hair allows you to recline comfortably to the sink so as to not cause you to stretch your neck over the chair to meet the edge of the sink. Holding the latter position for the duration of your shampoo treatment could cause muscle strain and neck pain.

Tip #4: Look out for electrical hazards

In many salons hairdressers use a number of different electrical devices, mentioned above, such as flat irons, hair dryers and curling irons. While they may be blow drying your hair they may also have the flat iron and curling iron plugged in and preheating, so that they can quickly switch between tools. Sometimes, these various tools may be plugged into the same outlet. Overloading of electrical outlets is an electrical hazard, so be sure to check out the electrical outlets and power-strips making sure that they are not overloaded since this puts you at risk. Also look out for torn or worn out insulation on the cords of electrical devices. 

Be very vigilant about electrical hazards since these can lead to fires. Since hair stylists often use flammable chemicals on their client’s hair, your hair could very well be at risk for catching fire in the event a fire were to break out in a salon.

 

Tip #5: Look out for biological hazards

barbicide

Barbicide: a disinfectant solution; a germicide, fungicide and virucide. Image Source: (Renscene Ltd, 2016)

 

It is important that you check to see if salon tools are regularly sanitized. Ensure that the hair brushes, curlers, combs and other tools are cleaned and no excess hair is left behind from other clients. These tools can be cleaned by using barbicide or any other equal or better method. Ensure that stylists also wash their hands with antibacterial soap after dealing with another client before moving on to you.

In closing…

To sum things up, hairdressers and employers should be aware of the harsh chemicals found in common salon products and the effects they can have on the human body. Use measures such as substitution or changing administrative controls to reduce the risk of exposure. Try to avoid slip and trip hazards in the workplace by often cleaning your floor space. For better ergonomic practices, employ the method of using a hair cutting stool to sit while cutting hair and use appliances with adjustable grips to avoid awkward gripping on salon tools. Use rolling laundry basket to avoid frequent lifting of laundry baskets but if you must lift, then remember to bend your knees. You might want to invest in a GFCI outlet and avoid overloading of electrical outlets. Remember to practice proper hygiene and properly sanitize salon tools. If you are a client, be on the look out for the hazards discussed above. These are the chemical hazards, slip and trip hazards, ergonomic hazards, electrical hazards and biological hazards. Whether you are a hair salon worker, an employer or a client, we hope that these tips will help you to become more aware of the hazards that may be present in your salon and how you can mitigate these hazards and their associated risks by implementing the hierarchy of controls. With these tips in mind, your next haircut will be a cut above the rest! 
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References

247 Home Rescue. (2015, November 18). How to avoid overloading extension sockets – 24|7 Home Rescue YouTube video file. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwqNdmN2Zd8

Accuform. (2016). OSHA Notice Safety Sign: Avoid Contamination – Wash Your Hands. [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.accuform.com/safety-sign/notice-avoid-contamination-wash-your-hands-wgraphic-MRST804

Beauty and Its Beast: Unmasking the Impacts of Toxic Chemicals on Salon Workers. (2014). Women’s Voices For The Earth. Retrieved October 19, 2016 from: http://www.womensvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Beauty-and-Its-Beast-fact-sheet.pdf

Edwards, C. (2015). Haz waste in the workplace – salon [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.grundon.com/Blog/Hazardous-Waste-In-The-Workplace

Ergonomics Simplified. (2016) Hairdresser 5 [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.ergonomicssimplified.com/professions/hairdresser

EU-OSHA (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work). (2014). Occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector. Retrieved from: https://osha.europa.eu/en/tools-and-publications/publications/literature_reviews/occupational-health-and-safety-in-the-hairdressing-sector

Family Health Team. (2015). Use Hair Dye? Watch for Red Flags With Salon or Box Color. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/01/use-hair-dye-watch-for-red-flags-whether-its-salon-or-box-color/

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs): Prevention from Shock Hazards. (2011). SafeElectricity.org. Retrieved from: https://www.safeelectricity.org/information-center/library-of-articles/55-home-safety/317-ground-fault-circuit-interrupters-gfcis

Levine, K., and Gelb, A. (2003). A Survival Guide for Cosmetologists: Tips from the Trenches. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning

Matthew, S. (2016). Keeping construction workers safe around high-voltage assets. Entura. Retrieved from: http://www.entura.com.au/keeping-construction-workers-safe-around-high-voltage-assets/Madelin, C. (2015). Hairstylists Are More Likely To Have Alzheimer’s And Eczema, According To  Studies. The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/27/hairstylists-are-more-lik_n_7451216.html

Melbourne Institute of Nails & Beauty. (2014, October 12). Occupational health and safety in a hairdressing salon – Lesson. YouTube video file. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBc4rIg0k3Q&noredirect=1

MySafteySign.com. (2016). Lifting Instruction Signs [Online Images]. Retrieved from: http://www.mysafetysign.com/lifting-instruction-signs

Nemer, M., P. Kristensen, K. Nijem, E. Bjertness, and M. Skogstad. 2013. “Respiratory function and chemical exposures among female hairdressers in Palestine.” Occupational Medicine 63, no. 1: 73. E-Journals, EBSCOhost (accessed October 20, 2016).

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (1993). OSHA Technical Manual. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_vii/otm_vii_1.html#3

Oliver, Dana. (2013) HAIR-SALON-HAZARDS-570 [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/hair-salon-hazards-photos_n_3389688.html

Paragon STL. (n.d.). Highly Flammable Household Objects [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.paragonstl.com/highly-flammable-household-objects/

Pfuntner, A. (2011). 2311 Sanitation Fig 1 [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2011/proper-hand-washing-a-vital-food-safety-step/

Renscene Ltd. (2016). Barbicide 1 Litre Jar [Online Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.hairproducts.co.uk/barbicide_1litrejar.php

RPM Therapy. (2016). Preferred and Non preferred Positions [Online Images]. Retrieved from: http://rpm-therapy.com/2012/hairdressers-salons-prevent-work-related-injuries/

Salaptek, L. (2014). Stand all day? 9 Ways You Can Reduce Leg, Foot and Back Pain. Modern Salon. Retrieved from: http://www.modernsalon.com/article/24830/stand-all-day-9-ways-you-can-reduce-leg-foot-and-back-pain

Seton.(2016). Be Aware of Slips, Trips & Falls Poster. [Online Image]. Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/images/2S3ZwJ

Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products. (2016). Women’s Voices For The Earth. Retrieved October 19, 2016 from: http://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/salon-products/toxic-chemicals-in-salon-products-workers

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015, November  19). NONFATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES AND ILLNESSES REQUIRING DAYS AWAY FROM WORK, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf

Weber, T., Nevala, A., and Mantouvalou., K. (2011) Final report.  Retrieved from: http://www.coiffure.eu/websites/anko_coiffure/files/2011%20June%20Final%20report%20Tina%20Weber%20H&S.pdf

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We’re back at it again…. but this time we investigated an Auto Garage in Curepe.

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Panoramic View of Auto Garage Located in Curepe. Source: Image captured from mobile device

 Hazards of an Auto Garage’s clutter.

Our group visited an auto garage, located  in Curepe, on Monday 17th October, 2016. The auto garage specializes in the restoration of damaged vehicles and also in the sale of used parts and auto maintenance. This auto garage was established 30 years ago and is still serving the public today. After gaining permission from the owner, our group took a tour of the garage to ascertain the potential hazards that may threaten the safety of workers and visitors. The Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2004 as amended in 2006 (OSH ACT 2006); Section 13A states,“Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient annual assessment of— (a) the risks to the safety and health of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the safety and health of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the environmental impact of his undertaking”. After a discussion with the owner, he allowed us to investigate his premises for potential hazards which was the intent and rational for our visit. This auto garage employs six persons, the youngest being 22-years old and they all face the same type of occupational, and health and safety risks.  There were many exposures which we observed including:

  • Exposure to chemicals and vehicle exhaust
  • Exposure to biological material and asbestos
  • Injuries like sprain cuts and bruises
  • Fatalities from falling vehicular parts.
  • Awkward ,repetitive or prolonged periods of stationary posture during maintenance
  • Over-crowding in the auto garage.
  • Handling vehicle parts or heavy objects e.g. suspension component, batteries and brakes assembles

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

TRIP AND FALL HAZARDS

Upon our visit to the garage we encountered many trip and fall hazards. One of our group members actually tripped and almost fell. Although this was not the case, this mishap led us to the idea to videotape so that viewers would have better clarity (her trip happened for a reason). Nevertheless, discussed further are some of the trip and fall hazards that were present at the garage.

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Gif 1 demonstrating member tripping on engine hoist

Source: Video captured using mobile device and Gif 1 created using http://giphy.com/

On entrance to the garage there was an Engine Hoist. An engine hoist or engine

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Engine Hoist. Source: Image captured from mobile device

crane (better known as a cherry picker) is basically a repair tool that is used in garage workshops or workshops of similar nature, to install or remove motor vehicular engines, in small or crowded vehicle engine compartments. This tool was spotted as our first trip and fall hazard, the hazard one of our members literally experienced (refer to Gif 1). The Engine Crane was found to be where customers/clients would use as a walkway. Knowing the design of an engine hoist, the legs of this tool was left unfolded, leaving customers and workers vulnerable to injury. Another part of the tool, seen as a hook hanging from the top, could have easily pierced someone and this could have led to a cut or stick injury.

Solution: Engine Hoists are designed in such a way that its legs can be folded when it’s not in use. The practice of folding its legs when workers no longer use the tool should be adopted. The engine hoist should be folded and secured in an area where the customers and other persons are not likely to encounter such risks.

We also noticed several garbage piles throughout the garage. These garbage piles had pieces of wires, steel, glass and rubber. The contents of the garbage piles could have easily tripped someone, especially the wire and rubber refuse causing that person to fall. Furthermore, if a trip and fall incident were to occur, the person would be exposed to bruises and splinters from shattered glass perforating the skin.

Solution: In so saying, we highly commend their attempts for up keeping the cleanliness of the workplace, but, simply discarding these garbage piles to a main dumpster, would have been a better approach than leaving the garbage piles in the walkway. In addition to this, different containers could have been set into place to discard different types of materials used. For example, a container or bins for rubber refuse.

Moving into the “stockroom” of the garage, there was an ultimate high risk of trip and fall

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Walkway displaying vehicular parts. Source: Image captured from mobile device

hazards that workers could have been exposed to. Different motor parts, fuel hoses, engine parts, screws, bolts, just to mention a few were seen scattered along the pathway where the parts were being kept. This was noticed for every lane which stocked motor vehicular parts. When workers are sent to look for particular parts, because of its obstructed view, and cluttered pathways, they would be most susceptible to trip and fall incidents.

Solution: Parts should be packed away in such a manner that it would not be scattered on the pathway. If this cannot be done, parts should be packed neatly against the shelves, leaving a clear mid walkway for workers to use. Additionally, the organization of such parts should be emphasized to workers, and make it known to workers, the risk they are creating for themselves. Another solution may be to expand the storage space so that there is sufficient room to accommodate any loose, extra or new parts.

 

Additionally, there was poor lighting under the sheds and according to the OSH Act amended in 2006, Sec 33 (1), it states that, “ In every part of an establishment where employees are working or passing, there shall be provided and maintained sufficient and suitable lighting…..” As noted, this section of the Act was breached. The areas where car parts were being kept was dark . This could have caused any person who enters that area to fall, because of little objects present and not being able to see well, causing a person to trip and fall. Also, poor lighting could cause eye strain to workers who are in search for a particular part. Could you imagine having to look for a screw in that dark area, more so, where the area in search is clustered with different objects? Surely a phone’s flashlight won’t help!

Solution: The owner should provide sufficient lighting so that workers would not have difficulty finding a part when needed. This would prevent eye strains, as well as, someone falling because they cannot see where they are going.

SLIP AND FALL HAZARDS

 Unknown chemicals were noticed spilled in different areas of the garage. Workers,

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Chemical spills on the floor. Source: Image captured from mobile device

customers and clients could have been predisposed to slipping on these contents and falling. Furthermore, some of these contents could have contained substances that some persons could have had a sensitive/allergic reaction to. The effects of such may have been even more detrimental.

Solution: Clean up spills immediately after there is a chemical spillage. If this cannot be done immediately after, have appropriate signs/notices displayed to that effect. Also, if the spillage is as a result of pouring out chemicals from vehicles or other containers, there should be specific filter apparatus to assist, in order to prevent spillage of contents.

CRUSH HAZARDS

Crush hazards can cause injuries to ones limbs or other body parts, and in extreme situations cause amputations or even death. These injuries can be caused by having contact with moving equipment, machinery or parts and persons may be struck by an object or equipment that may fall/collapse.

Upon visiting the auto garage, there were many objects that can be seen as a crush hazard.

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Car Doors Hanging on metal hooks. Source: Image captured from mobile device

There were many car doors that were hanging from a metal hook in a specific area in the garage. Since this particular area in the garage was overcrowded with these doors and was closely packed together, there was a risk that while taking down one it may cause another to fall on a person and crush them. Persons may be pinned or caught under the door that fell. A door is very big and heavy, and could cause serious damage if it falls on someone, may cause amputations by the sharp edges or head injuries.

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Car  Grill hung from the ceiling on a metal hook. Source: Image captured from mobile device

In another area of the garage, a car grill was seen hanging from the roof. If this was not properly fastened it can fall on someone and cause injuries. Throughout the garage, car parts were seen packed onto shelves that were high as the roof. The aisles were narrow and offered a limited area for movement. Getting access to car parts at the highest points within this confined space seemed difficult and would be dangerous to all workers. Objects can fall from high points onto a worker’s head or body and can cause injury.

Solution:  The employer should ensure that the means by which the car doors are stored is safe enough for movement of workers while they are on the job. He should ensure that the doors are properly fastened and will not fall on his workers. The car parts on the shelves should be securely placed and not overstocked on the shelves. There should be no parts hanging down from the shelves that can easily fall and injure workers.

Also the workers should wear personal protective equipment such as steel-toed shoes for protection of the feet and hard hat for protection of the head. According to the OSH Act amended in 2006, in section 23(1) it speaks of persons in an establishment that are at risk of head, eye, ear, foot and hand injury should be provided with suitable protective clothing or devices.

Most importantly, workers should be trained on handling and proper storage of these car parts.

FIRE HAZARDS

According to Safeopedia.com, fire hazards include all types of live flames, causes of sparks, hot objects, and chemicals that are potential for ignition, or that can aggravate a fire to become large and uncontrolled. Fire hazards also include all types of potential threats to fire prevention practices, firefighting, built-in fire safety systems and situations that restrict the escape of people from an affected building or area in the event of a fire.

 Class B Fires

These fires involve flammable liquids including oils, grease, tar, lacquers, flammable gases, oil-based paints, and some plastics. (F.I.E.L.D.S. Fire Protection Inc. 2011)

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No Smoking Sign. Source: Image captured from mobile device

At the garage, one potential fire hazard was the workers smoking cigarettes near oil spills while taking a break, even though there was a no smoking sign. There were many oils spills throughout the compound which could have easily caused a fire if a cigarette butt had been carelessly discarded on the floor.

Solution: Workers should not smoke on the compound. If the smokers need to smoke they can exit the compound, smoke and then return because the garage is located near the road.

Another hazard at the garage was the improper storage of flammable and hazardous

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Unsecured Propane Gas Cylinder. Source: Image captured from mobile device

materials and chemicals. A propane gas tank was seen standing unsecured behind some car parts exposed to the elements. If the compressed gas cylinder was knocked over, it could have exerted a tremendous force!

Solutions: Gas cylinders should be stored in the upright position and secured with an insulated chain or non-conductive belt. The area must be clearly identified, dry, well-ventilated, away from doorways, aisles, elevators, and stairs. With outside storage, place on a fireproof surface and enclose in a tamper-proof enclosure.

Subsequently, the hindrance to sight or to reach firefighting equipment, markings and alarm systems was another hazard. One fire extinguisher was in the office area under the desk and the other at the side of the freezer. When asked, “Do you have any fire extinguishers”, the owner replied, “Yeah yeah, it in the office. Everything check out and up to date”. The fire extinguisher however, had not been serviced since 10th September, 2012.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Fire extinguishers should be near the work area and easily accessible. Dry chemical, cartridge and cylinder operated fire extinguishers, with mild steel shells should be serviced every year. Employees should be trained to use fire extinguishers (refer to image below), and should know where the fire alarm is, and emergency evacuation and assembly procedures.

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Image showing how to use a fire extinguisher

Source: http://americleaninc.com/how-to-use-a-fire-extinguisher/

The last fire hazard was the absence of a fire detection and alarm system. The garage was loacted under a house. The people living upstairs would be unaware of any fires and in the event of a fire, rapid evacuation is key to survival!

Solution: Fire detection and automatic or semi-automatic fire alarm systems must be installed to prevent injury and to avoid serious damage to property.

CHEMICAL HAZARDS

Chemical hazards can pose harmful health effects and can lead to physical hazards as well. While exploring other hazards on the compound we came across numerous chemical hazards. These hazards identified may seem normal as it is an auto garage but they can still pose some threat to both the workers, passers-by and to the environment.

One of these hazards found… well …smelt was a pungent odour of old oil and other unidentified odours. Inhaling chemicals everyday can have drastic effects on all body systems. These effects can be either acute (shows up immediately or soon after exposure) or chronic (takes years to show up). On the floor, we noticed old oil spills, which were being decomposed by the sun, car parts with chemical residue, an open car bonnet and opened containers of unknown substances, these all contributed to the foul odours. According to The OSH Act amended in 2006, fumes and other impurities emitted from an establishment that are injurious or offensive to the employees, measures must be taken to protect the employees from inhalation.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Some of these odours cannot be avoided but can be reduced.Regular power washing of the area can be used to remove old oils from emitting fumes, re-covering containers or appropriately disposing of containers which are not in use or by purchasing an air cleaner to aid in purification of the air in the auto shops.

Another hazard spotted was chemicals laying around in soft drink, detergent, other bottles and some in their original containers. Although some of the bottles were labeled (not clearly), others were not and they were inappropriately stored. Some may have been corrosive and deteriorate the bottles exposing their contents. The OSH Act amended in 2006 states that chemicals must be clearly labeled, all labels should be legible and in good condition. Repair or replace damaged or missing labels. Chemicals that are not in the manufacturer’s original container must be labeled with the content indicating if it is hazardous to warn individuals in the work area. Not labeling these chemicals at all or properly especially if it is a commonly known drinking bottle can lead to accidental ingestion and we don’t think degreaser taste like soft drink.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions: Other than labeling containers appropriately, having a designated area for these chemicals with appropriate and adequate storage cabinets or shelves would help to avoid accidental ingestion or spillage. The usse of appropriate containers for transfer of chemicals would also avoid spillage.

ERGONOMIC HAZARDS

An ergonomic hazard can be defined as any work place conditions that can cause a potential risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system of an individual. According to the University of Chicago, Environment Health and Safety,  ergonomic hazards can be caused by repetition of specific movements, extremes of temperature, vibrations, forceful movement and unnatural postures to name a few. In the setting of, a mechanical workshop or garage, there can be an increased risk for ergonomic hazards due to the propping of workers to check the engine of the vehicle and performing work for extended periods of time.

At this garage, the workers can be seen carrying on an examination of a vehicle. As seen

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Workers seen bending over a vehicle. Source: Image captured from mobile device

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Workers checking vehicle. Source: Image captured from mobile device

in the image, these workers are bent over looking at the vehicle and this was done for a total of fifteen minutes. In this mechanical field, workers have high risk for acute musculoskeletal injures like tendon rupture or hernia cause by overexertion and poor posture for prolonged periods of time and carpal tunnel syndrome Additionally, workers can be susceptible to muscle sprains and strains due to improper lifting of objects. Individuals may not always know the proper method for lifting objects, or they may just resort to using short cuts and this can lead to injuries. Personal protective equipment, or PPE is designed to protect workers from serious work place injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical,  physical, electrical, mechanical or other work place hazards.  These  workers are seen here with no personal protective wear such as   coveralls, safety goggles or safety shoes while carrying out their duties.  The OSH Act amended in 2006, clearly states that it is the duty of an employer to supply his workers with adequate PPE at the work place.

Solution: Proper supportive wear should be worn by all workers such as back braces and

wrist bands during working hours. Heavy objects should be pushed instead of being dragged.

When lifting heavy objects:

  1. Keep a wide stance
  2. Squat down do not bend
  3. Maintain a good posture
  4. Slowly lift using your legs not you back
  5. Hold the object at belly button level
  6. When setting the object down ensure that you squat

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS

At this auto garage, customers are free to walk around but there are various car parts stacked along the path ways on heights. This can cause stress and anxiousness because these items are not secured and can fall and result in bodily harm. On the shelves, there are vehicular parts projecting onto the pathway, a customer who is not mindful can walk into these items. For me, now being aware of various potential hazards walking through this establishment, caused a lot of anxiety as I knew what could have happened if these objects were to fall, and this can happen to customers. The bathroom was located at the back of the business and the pathway had little lighting and was cluttered with car parts and this could be frustrating to some customers.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

Solutions:

  • Customers should be restricted from walking through this business or if is necessary for the customer to walk through, a worker should be there to direct the customers.
  • The pathway should be cleared of all debris and the bathroom should be relocated to the front of the business.

BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS

It was evident that this establishment was overcrowded and cluttered on entry. There were

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Stacked Tyres exposed to Environmental Elements. Source: Image captured from mobile device

stacked tyres exposed to environmental elements and several tyres that were not properly stored. These tyres may collect moisture and become the perfect environment for the breeding of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are known to be the carriers of Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Chikungunya and the Zika Virus, all of which are prominent in the society. All employees, visitors or customers and environs are at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes and may become infected with any of the previously mentioned mosquito borne diseases.

Solutions: 

  • Tyres should be neatly stored and covered to prevent the collection of water. The area where the tyres are stored should be fumigated evry three months.
  • Employees should apply insect repellent to exposed sections of their body.
  • Visitors/Customers should have limited access to areas where mosquito infestation may be high.

Another area which posed potential biological hazards was the improper storage of large quantities of miscellaneous materials.  Improperly stored materials may create a habitat for rodents and roaches.  Roaches are known to be carriers of Salmonella and E. coli bacteria while rodents are responsible for Leptospirosis and Rat bite fever. Workers are at the greatest risk since these rodents and roaches may come into contact with foodstuff in the kitchen and, or lunch room.

Solutions:

  • This garage should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and unwanted objects should be discarded monthly.
  • A proper storage plan should be implemented and followed.
  • Items should be stored above the ground on metal or mesh shelves.
  • Routine fumigation and the setting up of rodent and roach traps throughout the facility, these should be installed and monitored by a professional pest control company.
  • All foodstuff should be stored in properly sealed containers and, or refrigerated.
  • All eating and drinking utensils should be washed before they are used.

 

HANDLING THE RISKS: 

Firstly the manager needs to recognize the risk in order to become aware of the potential hazards and concerns. The owner can adopt these steps to reduce the risk at his work place by incorporating the following recommendation:

  • Identify all the hazards in these categories; physical,chemical, biological, ergonomic and psychological and train workers on how to recognize and avoid  them.
  • Conduct annual risk assessments and/or in 6 months if there has been a significant change
  • Inspect tools and equipment regularly
  • Ask workers to report any hazards right away
  • Wear protective gloves and other protective equipment when working with solvents and other hazardous materials.
  • Clean up spills promptly.

In conclusion, there can be numerous hazards at any establishment and it was no different for this Auto Garage.  As mentioned before the employer plays a major role in ensuring the safety of his workers and the OSH Act list this as one of the duties of an employer. Once you have become sensitized to Health and Safety issues it becomes easier to identify them. Some readers may even be able to identify additional hazards that were not previously mentioned and that is excellent.

Here are some extra photos we took of the Auto Garage. Can you identify the hazards? Respond in the comments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Source: Images captured from mobile device

References



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For Colored Girls: Tyler Perry

 

 

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So you are probably wondering why of all the movies available we choose this depressing chic flick; besides the fact that estrogen outweighs testosterone 7-1 in our group. This movie shows the the struggles of colored women. While we might agree it is over done and there is no lack of exaggeration, it highlights major life issues but more relevant to us many health and safety hazards and violations. The movie presents a roller coaster of emotions swirling through surprise, anger, hurt, happiness and sadness. What presents even more of a thrill for the ladies is the A-list cast of “finnnnne” black men Michael Ealy, Omari Hardwick and, for our one sole guy on the team the beautiful ladies like Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson and Loretta Devine. The entire cast kept us intrigued and the Director Mr Tyler Perry, who with the help of these actresses, played powerful, tragic characters showing all the dangers in these real life situations. As the UWI OSH Enforcers we will take you on an eye opening journey to expose all these heinous safety hazards.

The movie begins on a somber note where the nine women recite portions of a poem “Dark Phrases of Womanhood” while going on about some activity varying from dancing freely, to the extreme of laying in bed and having what appears to be non consensual sex.

ERGONOMIC AND PHYSICAL HAZARDS

The beginning ballet segment showcased certain 

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Fig 1

opportunities in which the dancer’s physical well-being could have been threatened.These would have manifested as slips, trips, falls, sprains and strains due to poor ergonomic design of her footwear. The shoes intended to protect her feet from soft tissue injuries in tandem with the floors surface would have ironically ended in her harm.

As the movie progressed Alice’s apartment raises concerns. The elements required to stir the perfect fire can be found in the apartment; oxygen, ignition from the several lit candle, candle’s wax, wooden shutters and many other flammable materials in the environment acting as fuel.

This is referred to as the fire triangle.

fire-triangle

Fig 2 : Shows a diagrammatical representation of the Fire Triangle. 

Alice’s apartment not only endangers her but her surrounding neighbors in the apartment complex. As Alice enters her apartment we see a cluttered environment presenting slip, trip, falls, and even stacks falling over hitting her in the head.

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Fig 3: Shows a scene of Alice entering her apartment showing slip trip and fall hazards

The security at the front entrance that is suppose to regulate who enters and exists the building is not properly layout where anyone is allowed easy access. This was clearly seen when the social worker was leaving and the gentle was allowed access. Additionally while she exhibited etiquette by buzzing into the apartment another female: Juanita, was to enter freely. If possible separate entrances where one is used to enter and one to exit the building.  

When Thandi Newton male friend is leaving the apartment building, Juantia and Kelly are introduced on the staircase climbing grueling staircases facing a slip,trip or fall incident.

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Fig 4: Shows the dangerous stairs in the apartment building

Common injuries can be neck, foot, back or hip injuries, fractured arms or even injuries to the back of the head or the face. Hand railings should be at an appropriate height in case one loses their balance to avoid falling over. The length of the staircase also pose threats in case of an emergency and no existing elevators. Also, fatigue and dehydration can cause accidents as the human brain is unable to focus, be alert and reaction time is very slow. All due to the long flight of stairs the tenants have to endure to arrive at their apartment.

 BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL HAZARDS

The threats  in Alice’s apartment may be strongly seen in the form of moles growing in unseen places covered by clutter. We then see Thandi Newton breaking the news to whom she addresses as a strange man in her bed that she can’t see him anymore because his wife is looking for him but no mention is made whether or not protection was used knowing he has more than one sexual partner, thereby exposing herself to STD’s. 

Whilst at home Jo talks to her husband who we remember as being busted having oral sex in a car with another man while in a relationship with his wife another instance where the risk of STD is present.

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Fig 5 & 6: The unsanitary equipment laid out on a try and a close up image of the rusty equipment use in back alley abortions

 

 

 

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Desperate not to disappoint her mother Nyla resorts to having a back alley abortion in an unsanitary environment where unsanitary tools are seen in a bucket and in a tray .

Attempting to sanitize the tools the abortionist throws an unknown liquid into the bucket before carrying out the procedure. The use of unsterilized equipment to perform abortions with inadequate medical facilities and a medically untrained practitioner. Moreover, the use of chemical substances in which its initial function has no sterilizing effects can lead to chemical and biological hazards. The use of unsterilized equipment to carry out abortion

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Fig 7: Shows the tools being sanitized in a bucket with an unknown solution

with inadequate medical facilities and a medically untrained practitioner. Moreover, the use of chemical substances in which its initial function has no sterilizing effects can lead to chemical and biological hazards.

 

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS

When Kelly finally reaches the top of the stairs we meet Crystal who has two beautiful children and is in a relationship with a former war veteran who exhibits Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and unsuccessfully tries to mask it with alcohol and ignoring medical requirements. While trying to talk to the kids Beau enters the room and verbally abuses her (psychological hazard) and she frantically exists the room. The cigarette butts left in the apartment is dangerous for the two children and can contribute to a fire. This behavior can cause trauma to both Crystal and her children.

After a long day at work Juanita comes home to deal with Frank who tries to plead his case to get back in a relationship with her. This highlights how imperative the issue of safety is prevention is always better than cure. Yet again we a reminded of the life altering and damaging effects that can result when the necessary precautions are not adhered to.

At Yazmin’s apartment she invites Bill to her apartment anticipating a wonderful evening as they have had in the past but soon after his arrival Bill begins undressing and refuses to put back on his clothes.He then overpowers Yazmin and rapes her on the ground as she unsuccessfully tries to fight him off. Emotionally distraught she is seen crying trying to put herself together. She is later interrogated by an officer who questions if it was consensual. As she grips her clothes cries and bears her heart out she explains to him a rapist can be anybody. The officer sympathizes and says he would pick the bastard up. Later the officer then visits Yasmin who accompanies him to the morgue to identify her attacker’s body.

 

Beau becomes suspicious of Crystal as she pulls up in a car driven by a male unknown to him that her boss is in the back seat. He becomes abusive towards her and suspects she is having an affair-hanging her kids over the balcony as Crystal frantically tries to save them. To her dismay he lets go of them one by one. At the hospital Kelly remembers Crystal and inquires as she is being consoled by the building manager and her boss.

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Fig 8: Showing Beau hanging the children off the balcony and Crystal battling to save them

Seventy- five (75) minutes into the movie we begin to understand the emotional disconnect between Alice and her eldest daughter as she explains to her she was raped by her own father who also raped Tangie. As a result, Tangie explains she is the ‘wrath of all women’, wanting to cause pain to men, a clear psychological disorder. They both begin reciting poems as if the other was not in the room. At the end of the poem she screams for Alice to get out her apartment and is force to be nice to Gilda because she locked herself out her apartment. Ungratefully she slams the door in the building manager’s face. Despite her rudeness Gilda continues to be nice to her as she tends to her face and Tangie willingly accepts.

In a rare scene we see Jo and her husband bonding as she opens up to him about Crystal’s situation and witnessing the death of her children. Back at home Jo tells Carl she is aware of his homosexuality as she found out she is HIV positive.

CONCLUSION

The women slowly became part of each other lives and support systems when Nyla, Crystal and Kelly gather in Crystal’s apartment. Tangie and Nayla hash out their problems. Gila who comes across as nosey but is genuinely caring checks on Crystal and gives her a harsh reality check that she has to take some blame for what happened to her kids. Clearly emotionally distraught, Crystal with the help of Gilda tries to put the pieces together. positive. The movie draws to a close when the women finally come together and discuss their grief, pain, loneliness, and struggles which they have been through; embracing each other and deciding to move forward with the support of each other .