OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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

 

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

 INTRODUCTION

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


Mechanical Hazards

Machine Chop/Cut Hazard

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

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

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

 

 TEMPERATURE HAZARD

 

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Image 3 & 4: Carpentry Shop Temperature Hazard

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

 

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard

 

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

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

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

 

Crush and Lifting Hazards

 

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Image 7: Standing Lumber posing Crush and Lifting Hazard

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

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

 

Electrical Hazards

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

Wall plugs filled with dust

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

Recommendations:

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

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

 

Fire Hazard

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

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

 

 “Who hurts when I get hurt”?

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

References:

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

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

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

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

 

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