OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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Cutting the Risks at the University of the West Indies Carpentry Workshop: An OSH Assessment

 

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Image 1: University of the West Indies Carpentry Division, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

 INTRODUCTION

Occupational hazards are everywhere; as a result of this officials of health and safety must make it their duty to properly inspect working procedures. Various strategies such as a risk assessments and regular health and safety checks must be conducted to ensure the safety of workers and staff. A risk assessment is essentially an investigation of a particular environment which looks for various forms of hazards, which may affect the health, and safety of all persons involved there, it also identifies sensible measures which can be used to control the risks in the workplace. A hazard is anything that can cause damage or harm. It may include components such as chemicals, electricity, ladder work, mechanical failures, lack of personal protective equipment, and even an inadequate workforce. The following blog content is aimed at enlightening all its viewers of some major hazards which people face in most manufacturing and industrial workplaces today, specifically the University of the West Indies (UWI) Carpentry Shop.


Mechanical Hazards

Machine Chop/Cut Hazard

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Image 2 & Gif 1: Employee operating and measuring machinery and equipment without proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In the image above we see an employee of the UWI Carpentry Shop sawing a sheet of ply without any gloves on his hands and also not using a push stick. His entire hand is at an extreme risk, as contact with the blade will cause irreparable damage to his hand possibly causing it to be severed or detached. Splinters from handling the wood can also pierce his skin causing damage because while he is handling the wood with his bare hands, he is contributing to the sharp wood shavings puncturing and remaining in his hand causing infections such as mid palmar abscess and other biological diseases which can further the damage. According to the Reed Group, Medical Disability Advisor, MDGuidelines, a palmar abscess is an abscess deep within the tissues of the palm of the hand. An abscess is a localized collection of pus secondary to infection, usually bacterial and can occur in any of the compartments formed by the complex array of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, joints, blood vessels, and nerves that make up the hand.

Solution/Recommendation: It is recommended that the employees wear their personal protective equipment while operating at work so as to avoid any injury or damage to themselves.

 

 TEMPERATURE HAZARD

 

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Image 3 & 4: Carpentry Shop Temperature Hazard

Have you ever worked in an unbearable or uncomfortable temperature? Was it humid or too cold?  You may have! Just like these employees of the UWI Carpentry Shop where we found temperature hazards. The temperature on entering the workshop was unbearably hot and when asking the employees how they managed to work in such hot conditions, their reply was that “we came on a good day.” They said that usually there is little to no wind blowing into the shop and the sun is 10 times worse causing conditions to increasingly worsen. We also observed that the ventilation fans located to the top of the building were not functioning and even when they were fixed or repaired, it is still was too high to serve its purpose, so there substitute was to use a high powered standing fan to circulate the air throughout the shop, but this lead to another major problem, as the standing fans pushed the lying dust directly into the employees eyes and created a dusty and congested atmosphere, which added to the risk of both ergonomic and biological hazards as dust contributes to very stressful work conditions and can eventually lead to respiratory illness, but while observing we also felt the dust in our throats and our eyes after being there for only 1 hour, and it was seen that the employees were not wearing dusk masks and safety glasses when we came in but only when we spoke to the supervisor inform him of our purpose, he only then hurriedly and not too discreetly told his employees to gear up. All workplaces in every sector or industry especially manufacturing should have all safety measures in place for its employees, there must be a provision of proper ventilation and breathable work areas to allow employees their comfort and safety. Employees must also wear their personal protective gear at all times especially when working around dust and other dangerous substances. In the case of the UWI Carpentry Shop, the supervisor or manager must allow employees to take sufficient breaks to give the employees a break to remove themselves from the continuous dust and clear their nasal passage way .Introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure such as flexible working patterns, job rotation, and workstation rotation should be encourage and implemented.

 

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard

 

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Image 5 & 6: Trip and Fall Hazard from extension cords and residual dust.

These electrical extension cords as seen in the image above were carelessly placed in commonly used walkways. This was extremely dangerous since there were many sharp objects and powerful machinery in the vicinity, and could cause an employee to trip and fall and injury themselves or even having the machinery fall unto them causing even more damages. The saw dust on the ground heightened the risk of slipping and falling because of the lack of grip on the surface if an employee was to fall.

Solution/Recommendation: It would be recommended to put rubber mats around the work site, and have the employees do regular cleaning of their work space so to avoid any injury from tripping or slipping and falling. It is also recommended that the employees safeguard all highly powered machinery away from areas where they can easily fall and damage someone.

 

Crush and Lifting Hazards

 

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Image 7: Standing Lumber posing Crush and Lifting Hazard

As seen in the image above the size of these lumber is very huge. With permission we tried lifting the lumbers and then realised how heavy they were, not to mention dangerous. There is a lifting hazard present since their area is confined and the board due to the size is awkwardly standing against the wall and if an employee presumed to lift one, it would be very difficult as the space is small the move it smoothly to different directions and is very heavy to carry across long distances, thereby causing a lifting hazard. It can also lead to a crush hazard as it may in some situation fall unto an employee while passing by and crush him to the floor causing him to be seriously injured.

Solution/Recommendation: These boards should not have been stored in that upright position since the chance of it falling is very likely. It should be laid down on the ground or isolated table away from commonly used spaces and should only be accessed if needed by more than one employee. When telling the supervision, he agreed with us to move it soon which was a very good measure of safety on his part. Lifting hazards are mainly caused by improper lifting, posture and ergonomics, therefore the employees and supervisors must ensure that their work-process entails a safe system of work whereby proper lifting techniques are used all throughout the workplace. By using the following simple but proper lifting technique tips, the employees will avoid compressing the spinal flow or straining the lower back when lifting. The simple acronym used to memorise the lifting technique is S-S-R. Squat (Foot to Shoulder level) – Stance (keeping good posture) – Rise {slowly rise and lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back)}. Keeping your back straight, hold the load as close to your body as possible, Use your feet, while leading your hips to change direction, taking small steps. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move. Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.

 

Electrical Hazards

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Image 8, 9 & 10: Electrical Panel Box immersed with “Cob Web” and barred of by wood (improper safeguarding)

Wall plugs filled with dust

In the images above, you will notice that all the electrical equipment is improperly maintained, that can cause serious damage to all employees who work within the area. There is cob web surrounding the electrical panel box that cause cause static and fires from the dust particles. The panel box itself is not properly safeguarded as it is opened and barred off by wood and the wall plugs are filled with dust that can cause electrocution and again electrical static.

Recommendations:

The employees and supervisors MUST ensure that only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work, providing safe and suitable electrical equipment for example. Providing enough socket outlets as overloading socket outlets by using adapters can cause fires, as well as ensuring power circuits are protected by the appropriate rated fuse or circuit breaker to prevent overloading and erosion of dust. If the circuit keeps overloading and dust keeps increasing, this can create a fire risk due to static and using battery powered tools instead of mains operated where possible.

Always inspect and test all electrical equipment as it will help determine whether it is electrically safe to work around that area. Have regular cleaning of electrical panels and wall plugs with the proper equipment.

 

Fire Hazard

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Image 11 & 12: Inspected Fire Extinguisher in UWI Carpentry Shop

While inspecting and observing the Carpentry Shop we bounced up on some fire extinguisher that were serviced on time and ready to be used. This is a very good example of proper safety measures in case of fire hazards, as the fire extinguisher is fully operational and has been inspected by the necessary persons.

 

 “Who hurts when I get hurt”?

Regardless of the types of hazard, be it Physical, Chemical, Biological, Psychological or Ergonomic Hazards we often think that it’s the person that got hurt, or liable to get hurt, is the only one that matters. But what about the person(s) directly associated with the person at risk? Should you the person at risk consider the welfare of your loved ones if you were to be injured? You may not be working for a hefty salary, or even be able to afford an insurance, or the organisation you work for does not provide health insurance. You often consider your economic circumstances before your health and safety. I say STOP, think about if you can be replaced at home or if your body part can be replaced. And if you were fortunate to survive, what will be your future, and ultimately the future of your family.  He who works safe today lives to work another day.

References:

  1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016/10/11 https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/electrical.html
  2. Occupational Heat Exposure, July 2009, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/
  3. Extreme Hot or Cold Temperature Conditions, 24 October, 2016, https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/hot_cold.html
  4. Managing Workplace Temperature, June 2010, http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/managers.htm
  5. Pressure Equipment, January 2011, http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/managers.htm

6.http://www.uh.edu/~jhansen/ITEC4350/GoetCh9.htm

  1. http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/proper-lifting-technique

8.http://www.aalhysterforklifts.com.au/index.php/about/blog-post/warehouse_safety_principles_6_key_guidelines_to_keep_your_workplace_safe

 

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Image 13: Workers without safety gear when we just arrived.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Risk Assessment?

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

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

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

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

Wood Work Shop Analysis

Background of business and individual

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

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Woodwork: Image 1: Table with tools

   

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Woodwork: Image 2: Some protective gear

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

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

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Woodwork: Image 3: Clutter at the workplace

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Woodwork: Image 4: Dangerous equipments used in daily operations

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

The below images shows the general workshop

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Woodwork: Image 5: The entire work space

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

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Recommendations

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

Doctor’s Office Analysis

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

Hazards Identified:

Biological

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

Physical

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

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

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

Health and Safety Practice on a day to day basis:

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

A Carpenter’s Analysis

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Carpenter: Image 1: The workplace for roofing works

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

Barber’s Shop Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proper, suitable, appropriate signage.

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Barbershop: Image 2: Proper signs for customers

Appropriate, suitable lighting necessary for operation.

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Barbershop: Image 3: Suitable lighting for operations

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

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Barbershop Image 4: Using protective gloves while cleaning work space

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

References

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


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Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence Prevention – http://www.brocku.ca/safety/besafe – 25th Oct, 14

                                 What is it and who is at risk?

When we hear the term ‘Occupational Health and Safety,” we don’t often think about workplace violence. A simple Google search will result in endless images of hard hats and other personal protective equipment, suggesting that we are more at risk of being hurt by actually doing our job; that the hazards we’re exposed to are most likely mechanical, electrical, fire, biological etc. However other people can pose a threat to our wellbeing, take for instance an unruly patient in a hospital and the nurse who has to calm them down or sedate them, not only would that nurse get a hit here and there but most likely she’d get an earful of insults. As a result, this is where we can see how workplace violence can get ‘swept under the rug,’ so to say.

In many professions violence in the form of physical and verbal abuse comes with the territory, think for instance law enforcement. As a result of this people can become used to this type of behaviour and that’s where harassment, gossiping and verbal abuse come in, and these have the potential to escalate into physical violence and threatening behaviours. Workplace violence can occur in almost any type of work environment causing both physical and psychological harm to employees.

According to The Bureau of Labour Statistics, in the United States there have been 14,770 reported workplace homicides between 1992 and 2012. Another survey conducted by Consumer Product Safety Commission in collaboration with NIOSH found that in 2009 more than 137,000 victims were treated for non-fatal attacks which occurred in the workplace. Though more recent data is difficult to find, from these figures it is safe to assume that workplace violence is common and a serious issue within the organization. Violence towards employees can result in loss of lives, greater turnover, lower productivity due to depression or anxiety, loss in working days due to workers taking their sick leave etc. Workplace violence negatively affects both the employee and the employer however it can be controlled and prevented through both legal considerations and risk reduction strategies.

TYPES OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

Threatening Behaviour

Threatening behaviour within the workplace is a worldwide occurrence an can transpire in several ways including yelling, laughter and insults targeted to a person’s sex, race or religion, other examples include threatening phone calls or text messages, spreading hurtful rumours about others and also physical abuse such as pushing or hitting someone. Hence, threatening behaviour can interfere or disrupt activities in the workplace. Every individual would face some type of threatening behaviour throughout their work life. Threatening behaviour against employees can occur between workers themselves or by persons outside the workplace. According to an article in the Trinidad Express Newspaper earlier this year, “Housing Development Corporation (HDC) workers and contractors were threatened by residents of the community in which they demanded jobs to refurbish apartment buildings.” Due to the refusal of jobs from the contractors and workers, residents were angered and displayed threatening behaviours such as vandalizing buildings, torching the scaffolds and even painting a “kill list” on a building.

Threatening Behaviour at the Workpace can cause Stress – https://www.google.tt/search?q=violence+in+the+workplace- Oct 25th, 14

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse can be described as the use of negative statements or words that can cause harm to the person being spoken to or about. This problem is prevalent in most workplaces but is so habitual that workers do not even realize that they are being verbally abused. The scars from verbal abuse can be just as disturbing and deep as wounds from physical abuse; the only difference is they are not as visible. Verbal abuse can take a number of different forms including: obscenities, name calling, insults, intimidation, threats, shaming, spreading rumors, teasing, sarcasm, mockery and scolding among others. Studies have proven that most cases of verbal abuse in the workplace occur because of an abuse of power by those in authority. Verbal abuse in the workplace is not illegal but employers must ensure that it is stopped. This is because the victim may suffer from serious psychological injury, stress and depression; working under these conditions can significantly jeopardize one’s health and safety in the workplace.  The Tina Robbins case that took place in Houston California is a good example of verbal abuse. This case brings to light some of the concepts mentioned above, it highlights issues such as gossiping, teasing and rumors; it even goes on to show how the supervisor’s behaviors  eventually led to the employee quitting the job.

Interested in reading more on this case? Read it here http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/california_labor_law/employee-abuse-00497.html#.VEkCvo0n-Zg

Harassment

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, colour, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information.” There are various types of harassment that occur in the workplace; however one type of harassment that tends to occur frequently is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment by definition is referred to as unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It is usually perceived that only women suffer from sexual harassment; yet sexual harassment can be experienced by both men and women. Moreover, it can be noted that sexual harassment compromises safety and equality in the workplace and it can also affect a company’s bottom line. Sexual harassment leads to a stressful work environment for those being affected. Researchers have proven that this type of violence increases illnesses and time taken off from work. In addition, it also reduces productivity in the workplace and can even lead to increased employee turnover. As a result, employers must therefore create policies that would make their employees feel safe at work and ensure that these policies are adhered to. An example of sexual harassment that took place in Trinidad was in the case of ‘Carl Tang (claimant) and Charlene Modeste (defendant)’.

Interested in reading more on this case? Read it here

http://webopac.ttlawcourts.org/LibraryJud/Judgments/HC/masalexander/2010/cv_10_03657DD13mar2013.pdf).

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can be defined as a physical force of violence between two or more individuals with the intention of inflicting physical pain and bodily injury. Physical abuse comes in various forms and fashions namely hitting, punching, kicking, pushing, burning, choking, biting and strangling to name a few. In recent times, physical abuse in the workplace has been on the rise and according to the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety health care employees, social services employees, teachers, public works employees and retail employees are at higher risks for physical abuse in the workplace as they interact with those in the public sphere. In Trinidad and Tobago many teachers have been affected by physical abuse in the workplace. These teachers have had encounters with students, other members of staff and even parents of their students. When individuals are physically abused in the workplace, it does not only leave a bruise or scar on them but it can also leave individuals feeling depressed as one may have to switch jobs and find another means of income. All in all physical abuse is a prominent form of violence which can be found in any work environment and employers need to put measures in place to prevent physical abuse from occurring and to ensure that in the event of physical abuse occurs within the workplace the unfortunate victim can be compensated for.

Worker being slapped – http://fishduck.com/2012/07/black- Oct 25th, 14.

                                                           RISK REDUCTION STRATEGIES

risk_reduction

Risk reduction strategies involve outing measures in place to lower the likelihood of harm inflicted upon employees due to violence by co-workers or outsiders.  In many companies worldwide employers use a checklist in order to reduce the risk of workplace violence in their organizations. Nurturing a positive, harmonious work environment, conducting background checks before hiring new employees and training employees how to handle themselves and respond when a violent act occurs on the job are just a few of the points accounted for on the checklist.

There are five major elements associated with Risk Reduction Strategies these are as follows:

  • Natural Surveillance, a term coined by “Crime Prevention through Environment Design”. It is believed that natural surveillance limits the likelihood of a crime occurring due to a person’s visibility by others. A number of  simple engineering controls can be used to ensure natural surveillance these include installing surveillance cameras, proper lighting throughout the establishment, installing mirrors or transparent partitions so workers are able to see their surroundings at all times etc.
  • Violence against employees involving outsiders is one of the most eminent occurrences of work place violence. As such control of access to the work premises is crucial to prevent persons who do not belong to the company from gaining entry and inflicting harm upon employees. In order to curb this situation companies need to put certain measures in place. For instance outsiders should be given an identification pass in order to gain entry, should sign in at the front desk and be given guidelines as to where they do and do not have authorization to be while on the premises and so on.
  • Activity Support deals with organizations arranging features of the environment to encourage positive activity and discourage negative activities. It is associated with using certain creative designs to promote workflow and natural traffic patterns.
  • Establishment of territoriality allows employees to have control over the workplace by allowing them the opportunity to be free when in their assigned territory; however they are prohibited from other territories. As time passes employees grow accustom to the persons belonging to their area and therefore they can immediately tell if there is an intruder.
  • Lastly administrative controls which requires management to create and enforce policies, rules and regulations reduce the risk of violence in the workplace.

                                                                       LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

When it comes to the legal aspect of workplace violence it is important to note that both the violent employee and their co-workers have rights, often placing the employer in a sticky situation.
Capture

It is then the responsibility of the employer to prevent acts of violence in the workplace from occurring and ensure that any act of violence is dealt with accordingly by following relevant policies and laws such as the Workmen’s Compensation Act (1960) of Trinidad and Tobago.

                                                                                                 CONCLUSION

Workplace Violence is a serious and prevalent issue in all work environments. Violence can be expressed both physically and psychologically causing harm to both employer’s establishment and employees’ well-being . By conducting proper risk assessments employers will be able to determine a number of ways to reduce risks posed by violent employees and outsiders. In addition to risk reduction strategies the employer must be aware of relevant laws and regulations that govern how workplace violence should be dealt with. OSHA and NIOSH both have guidelines which are not mandatory but which are helpful to workplaces interested in reducing and preventing violence.

REFERENCES

  • “Violence in the Workplace – Google Search.” Violence in the Workplace – Google Search. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
  • “Violence in the Workplace – Google Search.” Violence in the Workplace – Google Search. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  • “Residents Threaten HDC Workers’ Lives.” Trinidad Express Newspaper. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
  • Of, Ttention. Focus On Areas. WHAT IS DISRUPTIVE, THREATENING, OR VIOLENT BEHAVIOR? (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
  • H. THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
  • “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – WE Legal APC.” WE Legal APC. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
  • “Sexual Harassment.” Sexual Harassment. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  • “LEGAL RIGHTS: TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO.” : Workplace Bullying & Harassment. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
  • “Effects of Physical Abuse, Pictures of Physical Abuse.” Healthy Place. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
  • “Common Menu Bar Links.” Violence in the Workplace : OSH Answers. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  • “Defining Violence and Abuse.” Types of Violence and Abuse. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.