OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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OSH Hazards in Godzilla (2014)

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Image 1: Godzilla. Source: http://gph.is/22Z1REz

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Image 2: King of the monsters, Godzilla. Source: http://gph.is/2axllfu

Yikes! Let’s hope he doesn’t have a case of halitosis. I mean, what could be scarier? They say Godzilla is the King of the Monsters who possesses immense physical strength. His signature weapon is its “atomic breath” that he generates from inside of his body. Hmm, that explains the halitosis. This beast of the sea, defender of human society and modern hero that sets out to make things right with the world might seem horrendous and terrifying but who could resist that face!? 👀 Nevermind that, let’s get to the matter at hand!

Joe Brody, a supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Japan is discussing an issue with a fellow colleague. The issue? Frequent and consistent patterns of tremors that do not seem to be related to a recent earthquake. On their way to work, Joe advises his wife Sandra to go directly to the site of the reactor at the nuclear plant, a decision he would regret for the rest of his life. Unexpected tremors breach the reactor leaving Sandra and a team of technicians trapped while the plant collapses. Fifteen years later, Ford, Joe’s son, returns home from a tour as a U.S. Navy ordnance disposal officer. After spending some time with his family, he is summoned to Japan after his father had been detained for trespassing in the quarantined zone of the former Janjira plant. Joe is convinced that there is a cover up and persuades his son to accompany him to their old home to retrieve important data. After being detained again, Joe along with his son Ford are carried to the Project Monarch facility where a MUTO escapes in search of nuclear radiation and its mate. The U.S. Navy steps in with hopes of tracking, luring, and destroying the MUTOS but  Dr. Seriwaza is convinced that Godzilla is there to restore a balance in nature and that the creatures should fight among themselves. The admiral, William Stenz, instead uses a large amount of military firepower to kill Godzilla and his rivals. After numerous attempts, countless fatalities, widespread destruction and havoc, Godzilla proved to be a true hero by defeating both MUTOS.

The OSH Titans have been assigned the duty of dissecting Godzilla, highlighting the various OSH hazards, and providing measures to reduce or eliminate these hazards. Some of the hazards identified are chemical, biological, physical, and psychological.

CHEMICAL HAZARDS

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Image 3: Soldiers discovering remains on submarine carrying radioactive material left by MUTO. Source: http://gph.is/MrUmnm

1) Radiation Hazard

How dangerous is radiation? According to Dr. Ananya Mandal, “Exposure to radiation is safe in small amounts and when it is strictly controlled during a medical exam such as an X-ray.” However, long term exposure as well as exposure to a large amount of radiation in a short time can cause damage to biological systems and can lead to electrical and fire hazards. In Godzilla, the two MUTOS feed on nuclear radiation converting it to electromagnetic pulses. Dielectric heating is one effect of exposure to electromagnetic fields that can cause severe burns about the body (Mandal, 2014).

Intense radiation can also cause electric shock in humans and damage to electrical devices. The movie shows the effect that the radiation had on the power grids in Japan and parts of the United States but failed to show the effect it had on humans. In addition, high intensity electromagnetic radiation can also create sparks if an induced voltage is higher than the surrounding medium’s breakdown voltage. Inflammable substances are then at risk of catching fire on contact with a spark, potentially causing an explosion to occur (Mandal, 2014).

Violation: According to the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago 2004 as amended 2006, it is the duty of an employer to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of every employee. In addition, the act states that an employer must provide and maintain safe systems of work which includes all materials used for work, all procedures required to execute their work, and the plant or facility. If we were to apply these principles to Godzilla it is clear that these guidelines were not met. 

Recommendations to reduce the radiation hazards:

  1. Destroy the organisms at an early stage of development.
  2. Alert the public and avoid deception. Areas should have been evacuated quicker which could have saved more lives.
  3. Lure the organisms to a deserted area and not to a highly populated region.
  4. “Fire” only when it is certain that there would be little to no loss of life. Reduce the risk as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

2) Dust hazard

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Image 4: Ford wakes up covered in dust after the attack and fire explosion.
Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

 After the disastrous attack, Ford wakes up and his nostrils, eyes, and mouth passageways are covered in dust. Did you know that the longer you breathe in dust, there is an increased risk to your health? 

Recommendation: The soldiers should have been equipped with masks to prevent the inhalation of harmful dust particles and to protect their eyes and mouths from dust contamination. 

BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS

Biological hazards are organic substances that pose a threat to human health and other living organisms. These threats can come in the form of bacteria, viruses, plants, birds, insects, and humans and can be considered to include biological vectors or transmitters of disease. Worldwide, it is estimated that around 320, 000 workers die each year from communicable diseases caused by work related exposures to biological hazards (Safe Work Australia, 2011). 

The miners were at risk of health complications due to:

1) Lack of protective clothing and equipment:

At the beginning of the movie, the miners that were working for the Universal Western Mining company were not provided with protective clothing and equipment. The workers had no gloves and breathing masks on while they were mining for Uranium Deposits. This is seen as a biological Hazard since the workers could have been infected from micro organisms and bacteria through inhalation, contact with the skin, and any cuts on their body if they received any. 

Lack of protective clothing and equipment is also seen in image 6 as Joe enters the plant.

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Image 5: Workers without protective equipment. Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

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Image 6: Joe and his associate without protective gear. Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

Violation: According to OSH act of Trinidad and Tobago, all persons entering an area in an industrial establishment where they are likely to be exposed to the risk of head, eye, ear, hand or foot injury, injury from air contaminant or any other bodily injury, shall be provided with suitable protective clothing or devices of an approved standard and adequate instructions in the use of such protective clothing or devices, and no person shall be permitted to be in any such area unless he is wearing such protective clothing or device.

Recommendation: Employers must provide suitable protective clothing and equipment to employees of an approved standard as well as proper training and instructions on the use of it. A few examples of protective equipment that the miners should have worn are safety goggles, steel-toed boots, safety helmets, high visibility vests, and earplugs. In addition, Joe and his associate should have been provided with safety gear before entering the plant.

2) Trespassing quarantine zone

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Image 7: Sign indicating quarantine zone. Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

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Image 8: Joe and Lieutenant Ford entering the quarantine zone. Source: http://gph.is/1cMJPNL

Ford and Joe Brody decided to return to their old home to retrieve old disks that comprised of important information about the patterns of seismic activity in 1999. The entire area of which their home was once located is now a quarantine zone because of the accident of the reactors in the Janjira nuclear power plant. A quarantine zone is a state of isolation, used to separate and restrict the movement of persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease.

Recommendation: Joe and Lieutenant Ford should not have risked their lives by trespassing into the  quarantine zone as it could have posed a threat to their health. 

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

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Image 9: Joe’s wife and her team heading to level 5 of the Nuclear Reactor. Source: http://www.kickass.re/movies/godzilla-2014-720p-m40674.html

1) Knowing the dangers that seismic activity can cause to Nuclear Reactors, the chief engineer instructed a worker to assemble a team and proceed to level 5 to inspect if anything was wrong. Seismic activity is defined as the types, frequency, and size of earthquakes that happen over a period of time in a certain area. The Health and Safety of the five workers including Joe’s wife that went to level 5 were put at risk since the chief engineer knew that if a Nuclear Reactor erupted, it would cause the loss of life with or without wearing chemical protective suits.

Violation: The OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago 2004 as amended 2006 states that an Employer must provide information, instructions, training, and supervision to ensure the safety and Health of all employees.

Recommendation: What should the chief engineer have done? The Chief Engineer’s knowledge of the risks involved should not have sent the workers down to level 5 without gaining more information about the seismic activity.

2) Falling Hazards

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Image 10: MUTO causing destruction. Source: http://gph.is/2dPSWRp

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Image 11: Joe and the workers in danger from falling objects. Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

Upon realizing that the tremors were due to electromagnetic pulses and was the cause of the last major disaster in Japan, the decision to evacuate the area was taken and using electrical forces, the first M.U.T.O (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) was eradicated, or so they thought. Despite their efforts, the male Muto broke free at the nuclear plant escaping from Project Monarch facilities in Japan resulting in a disarray of heavy machinery, metal, and other objects being violently thrown around leading to many injuries and the death of Joe.

Recommendation: The death of Joe as well as other fallen soldiers could have been prevented if authorities made the right decision on behalf of their team to evacuate the entire plant upon learning of the news. More lives could have been saved if the entire area was quarantined and a strategical approach was taken.

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Image 12: Bus driver on the bridge trying to escape. Source: http://gph.is/2dPVwGY

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Image 13: Children confused and frightened in the bus. Source: http://gph.is/2eRd9Jj

Recommendation– All persons and vehicles should have been evacuated and the bridge should have been blocked off before the attack to prevent persons from becoming injured.  

3) Tsunami

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Image 14: Tsunami approaching at full speed. Source: http://gph.is/2ecErbi

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Image 15: People running for their lives as the tsunami approaches the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. Source: http://gph.is/2eUgFlu

Godzilla entered Honolulu at full speed and fully submerged. His full mass is displaced in the water and driving it forward at an enormous speed (Lee, 2014). This causes mass hysteria on the beaches as people become aware that a tsunami is coming. Hundreds of people run for their lives, but the tsunami approaches and  the streets are quickly flooded. This caused a great loss of lives, destruction to buildings and objects, as well as a large power outage. We were on the edge of our seats for this scene as I am sure many of you would be as well! 

Recommendation: All persons should have been evacuated away from the beach and alerted to move to higher ground or inland and away from water immediately.   

Disaster preparedness, don’t risk it! Tsunami Awareness & Safety guide

4) Endangerment of civilians. 

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Image 16: Young boy attempting to open the door of the train as he is separated from his parents. Source: Author photo taken from Godzilla 2014 for illustration purposes.

Recommendation: The parents should have held the child’s hand which would have prevented the child from entering the train by himself and thereby ensuring his safety.

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Image 17: MUTO’s leg smashes on the ground which causes a major power outage. Source: http://gph.is/2eALde2

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Image 18: Muto destroying train and incurring injury to passengers. Source: http://gph.is/2eUdSZW

While boarding a train from Hawaii, Ford as well as other passengers are trapped in an electrical outage caused by the M.U.T.O. This resulted in the train coming to an abrupt stop on the tracks which caused passengers to be stranded since there were no means of escape. Moments later the train was powered again and moving. During this time, the harmful creature that was seen attacking the city, approached and destroyed the train track. Glass from the windows of the train became shattered and gunfire posed danger to the remaining passengers on the train.

Recommendation:  This havoc could have been prevented if passengers were banned from using any means of electrical transport until the situation was under control. The authorities should have never allowed individuals to board the train knowing the danger involved. Instead of keeping the situation quieted, the public should have been alerted of the possible dangers of utilizing the train track which may have resulted in less injuries and death.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS

Optimism faded, as the realization of what happened to Hawaii begins to settle in and disappointment, resentment, anger and frustration became evident (McMahon 2011). Confronted with the scenes of destruction and the deaths of loved ones, many survivors may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious psychological disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing life-threatening events as shown in Godzilla (ChildFund, 2013).

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Image 19: Firefighters and police officers seen assisting injured persons on the scene. Source: http://gph.is/2dMpIYD

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Image 20: A family reuniting after the traumatic event. Source: http://gph.is/2dPQ4Eh

Recommendations: Therapy or counselling would have helped those persons that experienced trauma from the disastrous events and make sense of their experiences and feelings, develop plans to stay safe, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and connect with other resources and support. For further information on psychological hazards, refer to our previous post. Raising awareness to psychological hazards

To conclude it can be observed how serious each hazard (chemical, biological, physical, and psychological) has been to the characters mentioned and the public in the movie. These hazards show how important it is to have safe practices in and around the workplace. Each hazard mentioned can be related to our private and public lives and we should therefore take proactive measures in safeguarding our surroundings for ourselves and others. In addition, one should not fail to encourage health and safety wherever they go and with whomever they meet. We as humans have a duty to treat our work environment with caution and respect for others as our work practices can affect the public in hazardous ways. It is important to understand your country’s OSH act, especially as an employee, so you know your rights and the power you have to stand against unsafe health and safety practices.

We would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Godzilla 2014 Trailer

References

Lee, Franklin. “Why Didn’t Godzilla Create a Huge Tsunami When He Entered San Francisco, Similar to the One That Hit Honolulu?” Quora. July 30, 2014. Accessed October 22, 2016.

https://www.quora.com/Why-didnt-Godzilla-create-a-huge-Tsunami-when-he-entered-San-Francisco-similar-to-the-one-that-hit-Honolulu

Mandal, Ananya, MD. “Radiation Hazards.” News-medical.net. October 30, 2014. Accessed October 19, 2016. http://www.news-medical.net/health/Radiation-Hazards.aspx

McMahon, Kathy. “The Psychology of Disaster.” Peak Oil Blues. March 16, 2011. Accessed October 21, 2016.

http://www.peakoilblues.org/blog/2011/03/16/the-psychology-of-disaster/

“National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance: Exposure to Biological Hazards and the Provision of Controls against Biological Hazards in Australian Workplaces.” Safe Work Australia. March 2011. Accessed October 24, 2016. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/571/NHEWS_BiologicalMaterials.pdf

“Posttraumatic Stress / Trauma.” GoodTherapy. Accessed October 21, 2016.

http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/ptsd

“Seismic Activity Dictionary Definition | Seismic Activity …” Accessed October 20, 2016. http://www.yourdictionary.com/seismic-activity

“Synopsis for Haeundae.” IMDb. Accessed October 21, 2016. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1153040/synopsis

“The Devastating Effects of Natural Disasters.” ChildFund. Accessed October 18, 2016.

https://www.childfund.org/the-devastating-impact-of-natural-disasters/?no_redirect=true

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RAISING AWARENESS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS IN THE WORKPLACE

Physical hazards have been the focal point for research on occupational health and safety for years. However, only recently emphasis has been placed on psychological hazards. To begin, 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. Psychological hazards in the workplace include violence/bullying, fatigue, technological change, substance abuse, and age related factors. This post is dedicated to raising awareness to psychological hazards in the workplace and implementing appropriate measures for controlling them.

FATIGUE IN THE WORKPLACE

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Image 1: Mental and physical exhaustion reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively. Source: Wellness Perth

Most often when you express to someone that you’re feeling fatigued, immediately their advice is, “Take a break” or “All you need is more rest.” Well, it’s much easier said than done. People need to realize that fatigue is more than just a feeling of drowsiness. It is a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively (Safe work Australia, 2013). When a person is fatigued, they are more likely to fall asleep on the job which can adversely affect one’s ability to concentrate, communicate effectively, recognise risks, and make decisions. This results in increased errors and reduced productivity in the workplace. For this reason, fatigue is considered a major psychological hazard. It is important, therefore, that companies first identify all the factors which could contribute to and increase the risk of fatigue in the workplace. Such factors include long working hours, performing repetitious work, inadequate rest, harsh environmental concerns, and non-related work factors such as poor quality of sleep, family needs, and social life. Once the risks are identified, employers should then take appropriate action to assess them accordingly. In order to assess these risks, companies should perform risk assessments to decide which hazards need to be addressed and in what order. After the risks are assessed, companies should implement appropriate measures to control fatigue in the workplace. Risks should be minimized as low as reasonably practicable.

The following measures can be implemented by employers for controlling fatigue in the workplace:

  • Employers should first perform a risk assessment to identify the existing or potential hazards.

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Image 1: Five steps to assessing risks in the workplace. Source: osha tt

  •  Introduce job rotation and break schedules/rosters to allow for rest and enough recovery time between work shifts for travelling, meal breaks, and socializing.
  •  Companies may provide a comfort room for employees to relax.
  •  Allow employees to work remotely or have flexible working hours.
  • Encourage employees to voice their opinions by reporting any concerns anonymously that they may have in relation to work fatigue.
  • Provide counselling for fatigue management on a one-to-one basis to their employees.
  • Install ventilation and mechanical cooling devices in hot, confined work environments.
  • Ensure the workplace and surroundings are well lit, safe and secure. A better environment will mean increased productivity.

By implementing such measures, employees will be less fatigued and more productive.

VIOLENCE/BULLYING

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Image 2:  An employee being harassed, bullied, and intimidated at the workplace by colleagues.

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults. Violence in the workplace is a psychological hazard because it is caused by fear and anxiety of the aggressor. Apart from implementing stiffer penalties for those who are violent in the workplace, employers can find the root cause of the violence by tackling the issue individually and offering support to those who may be victims or aggressors. In addition, employers can implement panic buttons, video surveillance, alarm systems, and escorts to and from the workplace to help deal with or eradicate violence in the workplace.

Bullying involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort (Fritz, 2016). The most common signs of bullying in the workplace include spreading malicious rumours, social exclusion and assigning unreasonable duties that are unfavorable to the employee (Oppermann, 2008).  It is therefore the duty of the employee to deal with the cases of bullying and the responsibility of the employee to report these instances. The employer can implement harsher penalties for bullies, foster improved communication skills and establish a policy of respect in the workplace in order to deal with bullying.

TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE

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Image 3: The advancement in technology contributes to greater productivity in the workplace, unfortunately it can also lead to “TechnoStress.” Source: rappler

We use technology to try to change the world around us to make our lives easier. In other words, technological advances show people a more efficient way to get things done and these processes often yield beneficial results. However, despite the benefits, technology can be considered a psychological hazard, better known as ‘Technostress’ which is one’s inability to cope or deal with technology in a healthy manner. When we perform multiple tasks simultaneously, our brains become overloaded. As such, we are unable to think clearly which can make us forgetful. This in turn affects our sleeping patterns as the stimulation from the overload keeps the brain working overtime. A few effective ways for preventing technostress in the workplace include taking regular tech breaks by listening to music, spending time in nature to calm the brain, completing one task at a time, and slowing down your pace. By doing this, you can become fully engaged in what you’re doing and the task can be done with greater ease.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

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Image 4: The abuse of harmful substances or illegal drugs can lead to Psychological Hazards at the workplace. 

Substance abuse before, during or after working hours can endanger the health and safety of employees as well as other co-workers. The abuse of these drugs whether legal or illegal can impair the proper functioning of someone psychologically. The inability for an employee to operate on a normal level increases the potential hazards that can be present at the workplace. The abuse of substances, both legal and illegal, can lead to psychological hazards. These include:

  • Alcohol – The abuse of beer for example can slow the reflexes of an employee if he/she is to respond or prevent a calamity from happening at the workplace.
  • Cannabis – The use of marijuana can impair a worker’s memory if he/she uses it before and/or during working hours. This memory impairment can cause the worker to forget how to use a machine, equipment, or perform a process properly. This can cause harm to the health and safety of the employee as well as others workers.
  • Hallucinogens – Phencyclidine (PCP) also known as Angel Dust, if ingested, injected, snorted or smoked by a worker before or during working hours can make him/her inattentive which can lead to fatal incidents or accidents in an industrial establishment.
  • Inhalants – From hydrocarbon inhalation, an employee working on an oil rig for example, can become dizzy which could result in the employee falling on or between a machine or equipment where he/she can be seriously injured.
  • Opiates – Employees under the influence of drugs such as Heroin for example, can contract Hepatitis B or C from injecting this drug into their body. The Hepatitis disease can spread to other employees by coming in contact with the infected person’s blood.
  • Stimulants – Cocaine, if used by employees, can cause over activity which can result in the improper use of machines and equipment which will endanger the health and safety of other workers.

Ways to prevent Substance Abuse  

  • Workers should be educated/counselled about the dangers of substance abuse.
  • Sanctions/penalties for persons abusing such substances on the premises
  • Periodic drug tests should be conducted.

AGE RELATED FACTORS

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Image 5: Both young and old employees at the workplace are at a higher risk of incurring injury upon themselves.

In the workforce, there are two primary categories of workers that require special attention when focusing on psychological hazards. These include  young individuals and elderly workers. These groups are especially sensitive in the workplace because they are at a higher risk of incurring injury upon themselves as well as onto other workers. So how can age become a psychological hazard?

Young Employees

In any organization, it is a blessing to have new, healthy, energetic and willing workers to join the company. However, there are also many issues that can arise due to a younger workforce. One major issue is lack of experience. Unlike older workers who may have been on the job for many years and know the “ropes”, these younger workers are now learning the various functions and with inexperience comes mistakes which can lead to major psychological issues such as depression and stress. Employers can therefore implement employee training and development programs which in turn will promote greater job satisfaction and performance. 

Elderly Employees

In most organizations, there are employees who have been present and loyal for years and with time, they are unaware that their increasing age has subjected them to various mental issues. This results in the inability to function and work as before. Firstly, their mental processes may decline which can result in slow decision making and the inability to understand directions, instructions, and demands of the company. Diseases also affect the ability of an elderly worker to display their best work in the organization and with age, many mental diseases become present. One such disease that is brought about by stress is “Sarcoidosis” which affects the nervous system including hearing loss, seizures, dementia or most commonly psychiatric disorders such as depression and dementia. Employers should therefore supervise employees to ensure that their work is carried out safely.

What measures have been put in place in Trinidad and Tobago to deal with psychological hazards?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act of Trinidad and Tobago (2004) as amended (2006) has outlined rules and regulations for the employer and employees to abide by. The act has made provisions for most hazards but failed to focus on the psychological hazards that plague the workplace. For this reason, further amendments to the act should include rules and regulations for psychological hazards in the workplace as it is just as important as other hazards. Furthermore, raising awareness to psychological hazards will improve health and safety issues as well as significantly reduce stress in the workplace. 

References

“Bullying at Work.” Bullying in the Workplace. Accessed October 01. 2016. http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Workplace_Health/Bullying_at_Work/

“Chapter 3: The Nature of Technology.” Chapter 3: The Nature of Technology. Accessed October 01, 2016. http://www.project2061.org/publications/sfaa/online/chap3.htm?txtRef=https://www.google.tt/.

“Fatigue Prevention in the Workplace.” Safe Work Victoria. 2008. Accessed October 01, 2016. https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/9197/vwa_fatigue_handbook.pdf

Fritz, Sandy. Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage. 6th ed. St. Louis, Missouri, 2016.

“Guide for Managing the Risk of Fatigue at Work.” Safe Work Australia. 2015. Accessed October 02, 2016. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/825/Managing-the-risk-of-fatigue.pdf

“Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Accessed October 01, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm.

Oppermann, Steve. “Workplace Bullying: Psychological Violence?” Workplace Bullying Institute. Accessed October 02, 2008. http://www.workplacebullying.org/workplace-bullying-psychological-violence/

“OSH Answers Fact Sheets.” Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. 2016. Accessed October 03, 2016. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/mentalhealth_risk.html

“Psychological Hazards and Controls for Rehabilitation Professionals.” November 7, 2011. Accessed September 29, 2016. https://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/course_materials/ohs_module_6_handout.pdf

Risk Assessment information: http://osha.gov.tt/Portals/0/Documents/a_guide_to_risk_assessment.pdf

“Workplace Violence.” United States Department of Labor. Accessed October 3, 2016. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/


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“Gas-ping for Safety at the Gas Station: An OSH Assessment”

 11.png                      Figure 1: National Petroleum gas station, Curepe, Trinidad.

 

As Trinbagonians most of us are guilty of the famous “God is ah Trini” attitude.

Hurricane coming?  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, God is ah Trini.”

Tsunami coming?  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, God is ah Trini.”

Food prices going up? All together now!  “Na man, that eh hittin’ we, because why?  God is ah Trini!”

Sadly, this mentality has infiltrated our society and has led us to develop what we as Trinis consider a “doh care attitude” or “laid back attitude” with day to day affairs.

On arrival to the National Petroleum  gas station located at the ever-busy Curepe junction, Trinidad our OSH senses became immediately aroused when we noticed that one of the two service lanes was blocked off by a garbage bin, while only the other was in operation.

We approached a man who was presumably a worker, as we observed him assisting customers in filling their gas tanks.  He was clad in a regular jersey and jeans and not a uniform.

He said, “ Well yea ulyuh could go ahead and take ulyuh pictures and thing, but I ent answering no questions.  Ah could call the manager lady, she now reach.”  We assented.  As the group surveyed the area and took pictures, many areas of concern became apparent on the compound.

Physical Hazards

As the group surveyed the gas station from its front to its rear, it became substantially evident enough to conclude that there were many physical hazards due to negligence by the workers and the company itself.

Firstly, the gas station is poorly sheltered. We visited the gas station on a rainy day and observed that water covered the ground of the entire compound, causing some customers to slip.  See Figure 2 below.                                                      

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Figure 2: Gas station poorly sheltered          Figure 3: Parked motorbike blocking passage

Secondly, in Figure 3 above, we can see a motorbike parked up in the gas station while the driver was engaging in some chit-chat with the workers.  His motorbike is clearly parked in the pathway where vehicles pass to fill their tanks.  This poses a threat to both workers and customers.                

Also, as seen in Figure 4, the hose from the diesel pump lays carelessly in the roadway resulting in a trip hazard for both customers and workers.

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Figure 4: Diesel hose carelessly placed on the left  

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Figure 5: Demonstration of the protruding iron on the right

Moreover, at the back of the gas station there is a protruding length of iron which puts customers and workers at risk (Figure 5).
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Figure 6: Demonstration of the open manhole above.

Right in the heart of the gas station there is a large manhole just waiting for someone to fall into, or a vehicle becoming stuck in (see Figure 6).

Physical hazards are also present in the interaction with the the liquefied petroleum gas or liquid petroleum gas tanks (LPG or LP gas for short).  Typically, customers are asked to retrieve and carry their own LPG tanks to and from their vehicles or other means of transport, which carry an average weight of twenty pounds.  Sometimes though, the workers are asked to aid in the retrieval and carrying processes for customers who are physically unable to do so themselves.  In these two situations, there is the risk of crush and pinch injuries.  If the cylinder happens to slip and fall, prior to even making contact with the ground, it will land on a person’s foot, especially if they have a slower reaction time.  This can, in turn, lead to dismemberment of joints in the foot, usually on the person’s toes.  Consequently, until the technology to aid in the reduction of manual handling of the twenty-pound tanks is created, it is recommended that when having to deal with the LPG tanks you wear closed-toe boots that can eliminate the severe impact in cases where it slips, and additionally wear protective non-slip gloves that can shield your hands from pinches and slips.
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Figure 7: Accident at the site

Lastly, our group witnessed an accident involving a customer driving over a slab of concrete due to the absence of caution tape or other warning signs, prohibiting access to that particular area (Figure 7).  This comes without saying that this poses a threat to the lives of the workers and by extension, the public.

In an informal interview conducted with one of the workers, we asked whether they had any personal protective equipment (PPE) to which the response was simply, “Na we doh have no gloves an’ thing for the attendants.”  This is a serious hazard as gas and diesel fuel can easily leak onto the worker’s hands. For lack of assumption, flammable and combustible materials, such as gasoline, when placed in contact with heat or flame can ignite in less than a second!  For this reason, we suggest that when operating at fuel pumps, be extremely vigilant in ensuring that, in the event gasoline comes into contact with anything other than inside the gas tank, you wait for it to evaporate, or quickly wipe it away.

When asked whether there was any formal entry and exit points to the station the worker replied,  “Most people know to come in from one side and exit from the other, but some ah them does come in from the other side and want gas, too.”  The mere fact that there are neither formal entry and exit signs, nor speed bumps present on the compound pose a threat to workers as well as the public.  There exists the possible effect of collisions on the compound, resulting in damage not only to other vehicles and people but also to the service pumps which can in turn ignite a fire. Open  the link to view an example of a collision at a gas station:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybFanfXaSlU&index=15&list=PLD185CA6C7ACA4E45

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards refer to workplace conditions that constitute  risks to the musculoskeletal system of a person (The University of Chicago- Environmental Health and Safety n.d.).  During our visit, we identified a few ergonomic hazards that can lead to great bodily injury, not only to the employees at the service station, but also  to the public.  At the gas station, muscular strains can occur due to constant manual handling of the gas pumps, which require squeezing the lever inside the gas nozzle handle to initiate the pumping process.  Furthermore, the employees can experience back strains from repeatedly lifting the LPG tanks.  While we were there, we  observed a customer applying air to her tire. The poor body positioning and posture required to do this can in fact result in back injuries to the customer.  Also, we witnessed another customer kicking a bin that was placed at the center of the driveway. From doing this he could have suffered from a strained ligament or could have slipped causing further damage to not only his leg but back. Progressively, repeated exposure to risk factors such as those aforementioned can lead to traumatic and severe injury and disability.   

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 Figure 8: Customer applying air to her tire with bad posture

Psychological Hazards

According to Oscar Wilde, “ We live in the age of the overworked and under-educated, the age in which people are so industrious they become absolutely stupid”.  

Currently in Trinidad and Tobago, our society is plagued with employees who are constantly overworked on their job site.  This was evidently seen at the NP gas station, where workers endure horrendous working hours with exhausting tasks required of them. Furthermore, the stigma attached to someone working in a gas station as an attendant, or having any other position other than the manager proves to be quite daunting- to say the least.  

Psychological hazards can have a negative impact on workers’ behaviours on the job due to lack of motivation and esteem, leading to low levels of productivity.  Factors such as quality customer service, team cohesion and team building are affected due to employee-absenteeism and lack of participation.  High levels of employee turnover are also experienced.  

In an attempt to reduce employees being overworked and feeling less enthused while on the job, it is important that those at the top, such as managers recognize the stress and pressures felt by employees when they are given too many responsibilities.  Managers must devise ways to bring out the best in employees to motivate them and boost their esteem to ensure a job well done.  This can be as simple as treating employees as more of an asset to the organization by showing appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

Regardless of how tough, strong and resilient you think you are, at the end of the day,  we are all humans, and as such employers should refrain from viewing them as machines. There’s a limit to how much we can push ourselves physically, yet our emotional endurance can be pushed a lot further.  It’s important to know your limits by means of working SMART.  You’re no good to anyone, least of all yourself if you’re not in top mental and physical condition.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards can be defined as substances, mixtures and particles that are used in the workplace that can be a health or physicochemical hazard if not handled or stored correctly (“Safe Work SA”).  We noted a number of chemical hazards during our visit to the NP gas station that put employees, the public and the environment at risk.  

Direct contact with toxic chemical emissions, such as gasoline and diesel,  in cases where they are either inhaled through the nose or absorbed by the skin are accountable for threats to human health, such as critical respiratory issues and even death.

What is commonly known as the “rainbow effect” could be seen on the ground of the gas station’s compound post the downpour (Figure 9).  This in fact is due to the mixing of the oil/gas spills on the ground combining with the water to form a film on the surface of the water. As beautiful as these “rainbows” may appear, in actuality these spills are flammable and can trigger a fire at any time, causing damage not only to the physical components of the station, but also to surrounding infrastructure and injury and loss of human life.   

In addition to fires, further harm can be experienced since the gas pumps are without shelter and are exposed to the elements, like wind, dust and (rain) water.  If water enters the pumps and mixes with the fuel, substances such as benzene (C6H6), due to its solubility in water, may be removed by rain to contaminate surface waters and soil, even causing extensive adverse health effects such as cancer and aplastic anaemia.

To read more interesting facts about benzene visit: http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/benzene.pdf

In an attempt to reduce these risks as low as reasonably practical (ALARP), the service station should have adequate shelter and protection from the elements, a zero-tolerance policy for smoking on the premises should be implemented, as well as employees and management should be educated on the effects of certain substances.

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     Figure 9: The “Rainbow Effect” due to gas leaks/spills from pumps

Additionally, although the hoses from the fuel dispensers are classified as  physical hazards, they can simultaneously be classed as a form of chemical hazard that give rise to life-threatening occurrences.  We observed that the hoses were laying negligently on the path of the service lane where vehicles were passing.  Failure to secure the hoses properly can encourage vehicles to roll over them and unknowingly burst/damage the pipes causing gasoline and diesel to emerge from them which can lead to fires and/or explosions due to the flammable nature of these substances.

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Figure 10: Hose being left carelessly on the ground

Fire Hazard

Fire hazards are conditions that favour fire development or growth. Three elements are required to start and sustain fire:

  1.   Oxygen
  2.   Fuel
  3.   Heat

Since oxygen is naturally present in most earth environments, fire hazards usually involve the mishandling of fuel or heat.  Fire, or combustion, is a chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible fuel.  Combustion is the process by which fire converts fuel and oxygen into energy, usually in the form of heat.  The products of combustion include light and smoke.  For the reaction to start, a source of ignition, such as a spark or open flame, or a sufficiently-high temperature is needed.  Given a sufficiently-high temperature, almost every substance will burn.  The ignition temperature or combustion point is the temperature at which a given fuel can burst into flames.

After performing a risk assessment at the NP gas station, Curepe there were several fire hazards identified. These comprised:

1)      Smoking (cigarettes) (Figure 11)

2)      Improper safeguarding of extension cords (Figure 12)

An interview with a worker revealed that many people mistakenly come into the gas station smoking, despite “No Smoking” signs are displayed, resulting in her having to remind them that the gas station is a no smoking zone.  This simple act of negligence can lead to a fire at the station.  

Also, in conducting our assessment, we noticed that there was improper placement of an extension cord, which was looped around a bar on the ceiling, containing a string of lights (Figure 12) .  This can induce an overloaded circuit, cause the cord itself to become damaged and lead to overheating and act as a possible source of electrical shock and electrical fire.  The main resolution for this issue regarding the extension cord is that it should not be substituted for permanent wiring in the first place.  

To learn more about safety tips with reference to extension cords you can visit: http://www.esfi.org/resource/extension-cord-safety-tips-478

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Figure 11: A customer smoking on the gas station’s premises which is strictly prohibited

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Figure 12: Improper safeguarding of extension cords

Biological Hazards

During our evaluation at the site, two biological hazards were obvious:

  1. Improper urinals and drainage system:

Both the disposal of the waste deposited in them and the gasoline spillage on the ground run directly into the drains (Figure 13 and Figure 14 below).  Although a small quantity of gasoline was spilled, during the rainy weather, with poor drainage, the now contaminated water runs directly into waterways.

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Figure 13: Urinal contents flowing into the drains     Figure 14: Gas spills flowing into drains

2)  Breakdown of gasoline and its health hazards:

Gasoline, a transparent, liquid derived from petroleum contains two main chemicals: benzene (C6H6) and other known carcinogens.  Carcinogens do not directly affect DNA, but lead to cancer in other ways.  For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances of changes to DNA.   Note that not all carcinogens result in cancer.   Many factors have to be taken into consideration- length and intensity of the exposure.

When humans come into contact with both carcinogens and benzene they experience a range of acute and long-term health effects and diseases, including cancer, death if consumed  and aplastic anemia.

With regards to the improper drainage of the urinal directly into the waterway, the risk of getting a life threatening disease is not as high as the case above.  However, health risks do arise when human waste contaminates waterways.  Humans don’t necessarily get direct contamination but the water bodies that farmers use to water plants do, which in turn is consumed by humans and animals.  This is predominantly when humans come into contact with the factors that cause health risks.

Helpful Links:

Service Station Safety Tips:

http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/property-type-and-vehicles/vehicles/service-station-safety/service-station-safety-tips

Do’s and Don’ts at the Pump: A Gas Station Safety Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5K-HjUPsKA&spfreload=10   

Conclusion

All things considered, this report introduced us to many health and safety violations which can be applied to different situations in our day to day lives.  This blog highlighted the areas of physical, ergonomic, psychological, chemical and biological hazards and their detrimental effects. We urge you, readers of this blog, to be alert and pay attention to hazards of your surroundings.  Greater level of awareness to such hazards is necessary to facilitate improvements and to reduce these risks ALARP so that we can all live our healthiest and safest lives. No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take the time to perform our work safely.

Works Cited

Eduardodiashealth. “Dos and Don’ts at The Pump. Gas Station Safety Video.” YouTube.       YouTube, 2008. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“Exposure to Benzene: A Major Public Health Concern.” N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Wluk. “Gas Station Accident.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 June 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.

“Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.” Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.

“Service Station Safety.” NFPA –. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“The Dangers of Overwork Are Hard to Ignore.” The Dangers of Overwork Are Hard to Ignore. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

“The University of Chicago.” Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Chicago. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.


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“A Conversation on Safety. At the Tyre Shop.” An OSH Story

Conversation

Image 1: Informal Conversation, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson DD: 17.10.2015

In Trinidad and Tobago we are often comfortable to wait on the “tyre repair man” to repair and or change your tyres. It is not really a ‘big deal’. It gives some of us some time to sit outdoors and engage in some ‘idle chit chat’, check our messages and emails, before we go on our merry way. On my last visit to a tyre shop in central Trinidad, I, had to do a tyre change of a flat tyre. I was asked to have a seat on a bench on the outside of my vehicle whilst the tyre repairman changed the tyre. While I waited, I took the opportunity to have an informal chat with two of the employees who were working outside.

One worker was noticeably clad in rubber slippers whilst he jacked up the vehicle. I looked at him and asked, “What about your personal protective equipment?”
“Wha is dat?” he replied.
“Safety equipment, steel toe boots, safety glasses, gloves?” I answered and smiled.
“Yea man we does get dat. We ha gloves an boots an everything.” The other responded, pointing at his feet that were sheathed in rubber gardening boots.
“Do you mind if I take some pictures of your equipment?” I asked.
“Go ahead nah.” was the response.
I took the photos, and then continued, “So, how often do you service your equipment?”
They both looked at each other.
“Three months”…
“Every year!”…
They both smiled. “You know nah, buh nobody does ever get damage here!” the first one exclaimed.

It was quite evident here that the workers at this shop were aware of wearing proper personal, protective equipment to prevent any physical hazards from happening. However, the behavioral attitudes of the employees, show that many unsafe workplace practices are still commonplace in our society.

Do you know that a moment of negligence can lead to us being damaged
or even lead to our death?

Take a moment to view this short video on risk assessment at a truck tyre shop by Michelin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxrruyGpMAA accessed18.10.2015

Physical hazards made simple

My group and I looked at this tyre shop, looking for evidence of awareness of OSH practices… or breaches. We found that most physical hazards present are mainly there because workers ‘simply’ created them. As seen in the photos below, working tools, unsecured and tangled hoses and even a tyre in the walkway presented many physical hazards.

20151019_110619_resizedAir tool and jack

Images 2 and 3: DD:Physical/ Mechanical Hazards, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015

At this small establishment, equipment seemed to be lying everywhere. This negligence could be the cause of slips, trips, bumps and falls. Equipment was not put away leading to cluttered conditions in work/ shop floor area. Debris and moisture/ wet spots were also visible. Employees as well as members of the public could be injured by the sharp edges of cutting tools. Although a jack is used, the equipment seemed to be very poorly maintained and there was evidence of rust, we questioned its reliability and safety. Equipment such as these are likely to subject the user to crush and pinch injuries should they fail. Workers need to be correctly trained how to protect hands and arms, when placing the tyres on the mold.

Mechanical hazards identified

According to Texas State University, mechanical hazards refer to moving machinery that can cause injury or death. At this tyre shop there were many machines with movable parts making the potential for death, dismemberment or disfigurement very high. Especially if they are altered or are poorly maintained. We found instances where safety cages were removed from their machines (See image 4) . In one instance, there was a rotating wheel that inserts into a metal ring into truck tyres under pressure there no safety guards in place. If the machine is started and the ring is improperly inserted the ring could become disengaged from the tyre and because of the force exerted on the ring and tyre. This in turn can hit an employee or members of the public that are seated on the bench or standing nearby causing serious damage even death. It was also noted that jacks and other lifting equipment were poorly maintained. There were large accumulations of oil, grease and dust on them that could cause these equipment to malfunction causing crush damage or dismemberment .

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Image 4: Machine that has had its guard/cage removed & Image 5:Crush point hazard Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015

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Image 6 Car Body Lift, Source: Lee Ann Lee Chee Wilson 17.10.2015 Continue reading


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THE FLOODING IS IMMINENT!

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

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

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

There are many types of flooding that can occur:

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

caroniriver

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

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

south gate

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

urbanflooding

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

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

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

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

deforestation north

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

caroni plains

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

chem dpt 2

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

waste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

engineering(engineering block at the UWI)

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

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

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

eng crossing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCES

  • Risks associated with flooding

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

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

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

  • Causes of flooding in Trinidad

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

  • Pictures of The University of the West Indies

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

  • Types of Flooding

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

  • Solutions to Flooding

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

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

  • The Flood Alleviation and Drainage Program PDF

Flood-Alleviation-Drainage-Program


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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.


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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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