OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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



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


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



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.






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.



Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard




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



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






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.


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




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.


  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


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




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




The Hazards of Flying

Hello again. Welcome to part 2 of our blog series. Our last blog focused on trips, slips and falls in the workplace. Today we’ll be talking about something a bit less relatable but far more exciting. We’ll be analyzing the major Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) themes from the movie “Flight” namely, operating heavy machinery while intoxicated (biggest understatement ever), mechanical failure resulting in harm and other noteworthy issues which popped up throughout the movie. This will not be a movie review – we’ll leave the criticisms to the critics – although it is felt that the movie could have won at least one academy award but we digress.

Fig. 2 Inverted plane (Source: corillomagazine.com, Movie Trailer, 2012. Web. 24 October 2014)

Fig. 2 Inverted plane (Source: corillomagazine.com, Movie Trailer, 2012. Web. 24 October 2014)

The movie ‘Flight’, stars Denzel Washington as Captain William ‘Whip’ Whitaker (a former Navy pilot with exceptional skills and daredevil instincts).  Whip (yeah we pitched marbles together) is a brilliant airline pilot who is also a drug addict and alcoholic.   The audience shared the experience of Whip’s pre-flight preparations; his competence during the turbulent weather; his unbelievable handling of the crash landing and ultimately, how he faces the music. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, no problem. You should at least watch the trailer, Flight 2012.  We’ll provide you with the juiciest bits so we can make all the references we want and you won’t be lost. At this point, it is our fiduciary responsibility to say, “Spoiler alert”. For example when we say awesome crash scene (ACS for short) we’re referring to this scene. I know right! The movie is centred on this ACS and whether or not it was caused by mechanical failure or Whip’s intoxication.

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Common Sense & Safety…Can it improve your life?

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

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


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

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

Seriously not funny.

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

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

bad neighbour

Delta PSI beta’s President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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