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Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

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OSH Hazards in “Deepwater Horizon” (2016)


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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are interested in the movie, here’s a link to the trailer:

But for now, let’s jump right in….

Physical Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image 1 illustrating mud and oil creating a slippery environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this be prevented?

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

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

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

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

Psychological Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chemical Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

Image 3 illustrating lack off PPE worn by Mike

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

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

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

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

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

Ergonomic Hazards

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

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

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

Image 5 illustrating Mike slouching over his desk


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



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

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

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

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






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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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. 


“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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10.0 Earthquake…Natural or Man-Made??

Topic: Occupational Health and Safety

Title: 10.0 Earthquake… Natural or Man-Made??


Picture taken from 2014 USA Movie


This blog was based on the movie ‘10.0 Earthquake’. We know that earthquakes are natural disasters of which we cannot control, but did you know that they can be man made as well!? In the energy industry, there is a term called fracking. The movie referenced was thus based on the concept of illegal fracking and how it caused numerous mini-earthquakes and finally one major earthquake measuring 10.0 of the Richter scale. Saving the day was essentially the synopsis of the film, but along with it came a plethora of health and safety issues which we identified to aware you, follow bloggers and viewers, about the dangers which plague the industry. 

Hydraulic Fracking

So what is fracking? According to Rinkesh kukreja the editor of Clean and Green Energy, Hydraulic Fracking is one of the more recent methods of natural gas and oil extraction. It involves drilling down deep into the Earth’s crust where there are deposits of shale gas and oil that the more usual methods of extraction have not usually been able to reach and injecting high pressured water into the rocks that contain the gas or oil. This water, mixed with sand and a special cocktail of chemicals, the ingredients of which fracking companies have not yet released to the public, causes the rocks to break.” CONFUSING?? My Apologies!. Try taking a look at the video below.download

      Video 1: Bang Goes the Theory – Series 6 – BBC


Confined Spaces


Propane/Methane Gas


Image 1: Jack and Co-worker in a Confined Space posed by Chemical Hazard

The scene above, showcases two hazards, the first hazard; ergonomic hazard which according to the Australian Government Comcare website is identified as a physical factor within the environment that harms the musculoskeletal system, it includes repetitive/continuous action, manual handling, office, job or task design, uncomfortable workstation height and poor body positioning. Though we do not see some of these ergonomic hazards the scene above does show where Jack and the co-worker goes into a very dark confined plant space in search of what was causing the ongoing disturbance without doing a gas testing and atmosphere monitoring, they had to slowly walk towards their destination as they are not sure what objects are in their pathway making their job task very uncomfortable.

Also in this scene Jack and his co-worker complained of smelling methane while entering the underground of the plant, thereby presenting the second hazard; Chemical hazard which would have been toxic, corrupting their breathing passageway. Although Jack and his co-worker were wearing helmets while underground, they were not fully prepped with Personal Protective Equipment as they did not have the proper body attire and they did not walk with their supplied air respirators and were at risk therefore Jack and his co-worker should have proceeded into underground plant equipped with fully operating torch lights and full gas masks and air respirators so that they could have see clearer and also so they wouldn’t be breathing in the toxic methane. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, methane in high concentrations displaces the oxygen supply you need for breathing, especially in confined spaces. Decreased oxygen can cause suffocation and loss of consciousness and even asphyxiation.

Solution/Learning Tips: Employees on or before proceeding into the underground of the plant, must make sure to do a gas testing and atmosphere monitoring to know if it is safe to proceed down under if the test are cleared of danger, proceed down the plant while walking with a heavily lite torch light on person, as well as supplied air respirators and proper body attire to protect one self from minor unseen hazards.



Image 2: Jack using his cellphone within the plant grounds

In this scene above the actor uses his cellular device near the refinery plant. This may be dangerous as mobile phones are not intrinsically safe, meaning that they have the potential to produce a spark of such intensity that it could ignite a vapour air mix. Which is especially prominent in a refinery. Although there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove this it still should be avoided.

Solution/Learning Tips: Quickly move away from nearest plant and make the call, just to be safe.


Fall Hazard

Crush Hazard

Fire Hazard



Image 3: Debris and roadways falling and sinking

There are two images displayed above, the first image depicts a falling risk posed by the workers in the plant, as can see debris is rapidly falling from the above ceiling. The other image shows both Gladstone and Emily escaping the road breakout as a result of the earthquake. These two images displays the disastrous effects that the fracking posed as a result of causing earthquakes.

Solution/Learning Tips: So to our fellow readers whenever there is a warning broadcast of earthquakes about to occur, persons must make sure to quickly execute their safety measures before, during an after the earthquake. Before the earthquake make sure you and your family are equipped with a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries at home, don’t leave heavy objects on shelves as they will fall during the earthquake, anchor restrict heavy furniture and appliances to the walls or floors, always learn the earthquake plans for school and at work, in case the earthquake is about to occur and you are not home and finally make your own family plan of meeting after the earthquake if your family is by some reason separated. During the Earthquake make sure to stay calm, if you’re indoors, stand against a wall near the center of the building, stand in a doorway, or crawl under heavy furniture and stay away from the windows. If you’re outside, stay outside, stay in the open away from power lines or anything that might fall and stay away from buildings. Proceed to the nearest muster point, and as seen in the second image above, if you’re in a car, stop the car and stay inside the car until the earthquake stops else you can be crushed by falling debris.


Image 5: Fire Hazard

Coming closer to the end of the movie there is an explosion scene which is shown in the figure above. Explosions are classified as a fire hazard and are dangerous in many ways. Fire hazards can contain live flames, sparks, hot objects and chemicals that can potentially ignite or intensify a fire from becoming larger and uncontrolled which was scene when a small ground fire inflamed the helicopter and the skyscrapers. This is what occurs in the scene as a chemical explosion transpires. This explosion was most likely caused by a leak in gas lines of either propane or methane with a possible mixture of oxygen.

Solution/Learning Tips: The best approach to prevent fires and explosions is to substitute or minimise the use of flammable material. If that is not possible it is important to avoid effective sources of ignition. Fire protection methods can also be used as they are measures that are taken to prevent fires from becoming destructive and reduce the impact. It involves the implementation of safety planning practices and drills that includes individuals to be educated on fires, research and investigation, safety planning and training.




Image 4: Pressure Hazard in the underground of the plant

The above image at the end shows compressed gases bursting out of the pipes. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, all compressed gases are hazardous because of the high pressures inside the cylinders. Gas can be released deliberately by opening the cylinder valve, or as seen in the image above accidentally from a broken or leaking valve due to the massive movement or possibly from a safety device. Even at a relatively low pressure, gas can flow rapidly from an open or leaking cylinder. In the image you will see that Jack received a gush of gas to his face which may have damaged or injured him by causing Anoxia which is basically no oxygen available or Hypoxia; known as reduced oxygen and gases trapped in body cavities such as sinus passages
middle ear, lungs eyes and skin being burnt depending on pressure. There have been many cases in which damaged cylinders have become uncontrolled rockets or pinwheels and have caused severe injury and damage. This danger has happened when the cylinder valve broke and high pressure gases escaped out rapidly.

Solution/Learning Tips: Employees while trailing the underground of the plant must make sure to walk with well supplied air respirators and proper body attire to protect themselves from hazards and risks, so that if same thing was to happen to them, that happened to Jack, they would not be inured, but will be able to effectively move to the nearest safe pathway. This can be prevented if there is sufficient training & testing of personnel, periodic inspections, proper operating conditions, relieve pressure from system, keep hoses short, secure cylinders and isolate plants far away from residential or commercial areas.



Image 6: Jack, Stephanie looking for their daughter Nicole, and finally finds her.

In the scene above, you will see family stress as Jack and Stephanie race to find their daughter Nicole and at the end finding her safely. Just imagine an earthquake is occurring and your loved ones are not with you, and you search everywhere to find them unharmed. Its not a nice thing to imagine I may say!. The worrying and stress can cause psychological hazard and risk to one self and the family. Questions such like; Is my family alive or dead? Are they injured? Are they safe? would be racing through their minds causing them to become panicked, stressed and may possibly cause heart stress.Psychological hazards are identified as any hazard that affects the mental well-being or mental health of the worker by overwhelming individual coping mechanisms and impacting the worker’s ability to work in a healthy and safe manner” (Physiotherapy Alberta- n.d.)

Solution/Learning Tip: This may be a challenging to solution to give, but the best solution is to just think positive thoughts, pray and believe that you will return to your family member and never GIVE UP!

Inadequate Personal Protective Equipment:


Image  6: Inadequate Evacuation Plan Causing Fatalities

 Jack and his co-worker could not have predicted that the metal pole would have fallen on the underground cover while they were proceeding out, but they became fearful when it closed because they were at risk from the broken gas lines and the steadily reduction in oxygen and they were not equipped with the supplied air respirators, they also could not have evacuated anywhere else because all the pathways behind them was too dangerous to even proceed.


Image 7: Jack, his co-worker, Gladstone and Emily Outside plant grounds

These actors are at risk in this scene above as full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not worn while they are on the plant. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Therefore they should have the majority of these items if they are in the near vicinity of the plant.

Solution/Learning Tips:This shows us that something will always go wrong in the workplace that may be detrimental to our lives so employees and employers must take the necessary precautions to have safe systems of work in cases such as trapped in confined spaces, lack of equipment and evacuation plans and procedures. It also shows us that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must always be present and worn correctly, it goes a long way in preventing serious damage to your body.


While Earthquakes are natural disasters, there are opinions (eg John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network) that it can be caused by man and his lack of concern for his environment. Man is not just a threat to his environment and all the other creatures, but the greatest threat to himself. Had it not been for Organizational Safety and Health so many issues normally would go unnoticed. There were Physical Hazards, Chemical Hazards and Psychological Hazards the combination of which was leading to a National Disaster. It is clear that being ignorant to the safety and health issues that can occur does not mean they are not already present. There is an old local saying “what miss yuh, eh pass yuh”, that is to say, not because it has not happened yet does not mean it will not. The damage to our environment might not be realized in the near future but may eventually present itself.

Earthquake Catastrophe

Image 8: Taken from movie


“10.0 Earthquake”, 15th October, 2014, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3488056/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana”, May 2005,


“Major treats from fracking-related air pollution”, 16th December, 2014, https://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/141216

“Worker exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing”, June, 2012,   https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.html

“Keep Fracking away from T&T”, 29th November, 2013, http://www.trinidadexpress.com/letters/Keep-fracking-away-from-TT-233880651.html


Canadian Centre Occupational Health and Safety:-https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/compressed/compress.html



United States Department of Labour; Occupational Health and Safety Administration