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Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health


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OSH Hazards in ‘Alice in Wonderland (2010)’

ALICE IN THE WONDERLAND (2010)

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IMAGE 1: ALICE IN WONDERLAND MOVIE POSTER

Source: https://www.tumblr.com/

INTRODUCTION

Occupational Safety and Health (O.S.H.) is a multidisciplinary field that is concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of individuals engaged in any form of work or employment. In its broad scope, O.S.H. covers the social, physical and mental well-being of persons. The prime function of O.S.H. is to create and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for employees, employers, customers and those that may be affected by the operations of the work environment, any violations of the O.S.H Act, the individual that violates the Act is liable to legal action being brought against them.

SYNOPSIS

Alice in Wonderland! A tale that ignites the youthful imagination of a girl wanting more out of life. The movie surrounds nineteen-year-old Alice, daughter of British royalty, who longs to escape the dull and stuffy world she resides within. After she is proposed to by a dorky lord she has no interest in, she becomes distracted by a rabbit wearing a waistcoat. She follows him down a rabbit hole, and finds herself transported into a magical world, full of colours, fantasy and bizarre adventures. Here, she becomes vulnerable to peculiar creatures and exposed to new environments where danger lurks around the corner. In this fantasy-filled land, an evil Red Queen resides and a benevolent White Queen remains in hiding. There are creatures that have been waiting for Alice’s return, as a prophecy has stated that she is destined to kill the Red Queen’s most feared weapon, a giant called the Jabberwock. However, Alice has no recollection of being in Wonderland at all, so her confidence to carry out her destiny is hanging in the balance. When many of the creatures who greeted her are taken prisoner by the minions of the Red Queen, Alice feels compelled to wander about looking for help in retrieving them. She must find her way to the Red Queen’s Castle, locate the magical sword that can kill the Jabberwock, and accomplish the deed she was destined to carry out. On this journey, she happens to become susceptible to the dangers and hazards surrounding her.

Although the whole atmosphere of “Alice In Wonderland” movie is a fantasy adventure film that barely scales realistic events (profoundly disjointed from reality), Alice still had exposure to chemical, biological, physical, psychological and ergonomic hazards. “Safety First” has made the group decision to evaluate each individual hazard that was identified throughout the movie to further give recommendations on how these hazards can possibly be eliminated.   

HAZARDS DISCOVERED

 Throughout the film, Alice in Wonderland (2010), hazards such as; physical, psychological, ergonomic, biological and chemical hazards were discovered. Further into our blog, we’ll discuss in detail the specific hazards that fall under each category previously mentioned. This would be coupled with graphical representation of each hazard identified for further clarification.   

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

 In the most mundane day to day activities a person may be confronted with many different hazards that may cause serious bodily harm, one of the most common types of hazards that people are exposed too are physical hazards. A physical hazard is any environmental hazard that can cause bodily harm to an individual, examples of physical hazards include noise, heat, vibration, pressure, heights and fall hazards, it must be noted that physical hazards don’t necessarily need to make physical contact in order for an injury to occur. Alice in Wonderland’ in this movie the main protagonist Alice was confronted with many different types of physical hazards such as noise, heat, trip, fall, crush and many others, all hazards mentioned have the potential to inflict great damage to Alice.

  •  TRIP HAZARD

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GIF 1: *Alice running after the Rabbit*

Source: https://www.tumblr.com/

Here Alice is chasing after the Rabbit in the waistcoat through the forest. She appears to be clueless and unsure as to where the rabbit is leading her, which makes her vulnerable to what lies ahead such as changes in floor level and unstable ground surfaces. Due to these factors, Alice’s reckless and unsafe movement through the forest gives rise to the possibility of tripping hazards. Tripping can lead to a serious injury which is no fun at all! Luckily, she didn’t. However, prior to analysing this trip hazard, “Safety First” observed that the forest is filled with numerous trees, fallen branches, twigs and vines on the ground’s surface. If one isn’t too careful, tripping becomes a possibility. This automatically puts her in the category of being “at risk.” Also, her apparel could have put her at a higher risk. For instance, her dress could have caused her to get caught in the branches of the trees, and her shoes are not characteristic of “running shoes.” Potentially, Alice could have suffered from a trip, slip or fall resulting in her bruising herself, straining a muscle, spraining her ankle or breaking a bone. Thankfully, at this point no damage was done to Alice. However, her top priority should have been her safety!

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE TRIP HAZARDS:

Based on the nature of “Alice In Wonderland,” one cannot expect that there would be “No Running in Forest” signs plastered along the path that Alice took when chasing after the rabbit. However, this particular scene can still be used to represent ways that a tripping hazard can be avoided. Firstly, to reduce the potential hazards that lead to slips, trips and falls, the owner of the land where Alice was roaming, could pave a pathway leading in and out of the forest. This will eliminate the possibility of rocky surfaces that can cause a person to slip, trip or fall. Secondly, by having the pathway properly lit, this will increase visibility to persons moving along the pathway through the forest. Lastly, footwear also plays a big role in preventing a person from slips, trips and falls.

 

  • FALL HAZARD

 

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GIF 2: *Alice falling into the Rabbit Hole*

Source: https://www.tumblr.com/

We are confronted with hazards from the very beginning as we see  Alice, who after being overwhelmed by the idea of marrying a man she hardly knew, decided to follow what looked like a clothed rabbit. After chasing this rabbit she comes to a big rabbit hole and decides to lean in to get a better look and it is at this time that she falls face first into the hole. So Alice, in addition to chasing random creatures she encounters in a forest decides to endanger herself by leaning into a big hole in the ground (nice going Alice). Alice in this scene is violating the O.S.H. act of Trinidad and Tobago that states “It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the safety and health of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.”
RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE FALLING HAZARDS:

In order to avoid accident or injury employers must ensure that proper safety barriers and precautions are present to not only warn employees of potential falling dangers but also prevent them from happening. Employees also have the responsibility to ensure that they practice good safety measures at all times. In this case, if Alice had avoided leaning over and looking into the rabbit hole that would have greatly minimized her chances of falling.

 

  • CUT HAZARD

 

GIF 3 & 4: Alice being chased by the Bandersnatch

Source: https://makeagif.com/

In this clip, Alice is being chased by the Red Queen’s ferocious Bandersnatch pet. Initially, her survival instincts implore her to run and get out of the creature’s way into a safe direction. However, after running a couple yards, her fight-or-flight response shifts, and she courageously (or stupidly as some may think) decides to stand before the beast. At this point, Alice purposefully put herself in harm’s way. The Dormouse, seeing the error of her actions, runs up the back of the beast and proceeds to stab it in the eye causing it to act out and reach for its injured eye. From this, Alice obtains severe cuts from the creature’s claw on her forearm. Also, due to Alice not being dressed in the correct clothing, she put herself at a higher risk of obtaining scratches, scrapes, bruises and cuts on her body. I mean, running through Wonderland in a crowded forest wearing a silk halter dress? C’mon! Here, Alice is directly violating the O.S.H. Act of Trinidad and Tobago Chapter 88:08, Part IV (10) (1) (d) which clearly states, “It shall be the duty of every employee at work to use correctly the personal protection clothing or devices provided for his use.”

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE CUT HAZARD:

Alice should not have risk her life by standing in front of the Bandersnatch. To avoid being harmed by the creature she should have vacated to a safe zone out it’s way.

 

  • FIRE HAZARD

 

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GIF 5: The Jabberwock breathing fire

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

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GIF 6: Alice Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

In the movie, many fire hazards were also observed that not only made for wonderful cinematography but could have caused great physical harm. In the first instance when Alice foolishly falls down the rabbit hole we see that there are many lanterns on the walls of the hole. These lanterns run the risk of being broken by the falling debris and catching fire in the paper filled hole. Another significant fire hazard we see is when Alice fights the Jabberwocky (fire breathing creature) and is hit many times with the electric/fire attacks by the creature. This encounter poses a great fire risk as it exposes Alice to major burns.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE FIRE HAZARDS:

To minimize the chances of burns employees should be provided with  protective gear by employers to ensure employees are adequately protected from injury .Any device that poses a fire hazard, such as covered lanterns, should be removed and replaced with lighting fixtures that do not pose a fire risk and employee should take the necessary steps to protect themselves from injury by ensuring they adhere to all fire safety protocols.

 

  • STRUCK HAZARD

GIF 7 & 8: Mallymkun poking Alice’s foot and poking out the Bandersnatch’s eye

Source: https://www.tumblr.com/

A struck hazard refers to an accident in which a person is hit and injured by an object, tool or equipment. In the movie, Alice encountered a number of struck hazards. For instance, where Mallymkun, the Dormouse, poked Alice in her foot because she thought that is was the wrong Alice. Mallymkun also helped Alice escape from the Bandersnatch by poking out his eye with her sword. Another struck hazard is caused when Mallymkun and the March Hare were throwing objects blindly at people at the Hatter’s tea party. Also another struck hazard  is when the Red queen slapped the Knave of hearts for allowing Alice to escape and the last hazard is when the Hatter threw a dagger at the Knave of hearts causing an injury to his hand for trying to kill the Red queen.

RECOMMENDATION TO REDUCE STRUCK BY HAZARD:

In order to reduce struck hazards employees need to follow safety instructions and standard operating procedures. Hence, training of personnel that use the equipment and orientation with the workplace can help reduce the risk of injuries. Also strict supervision, monitoring, controlling, safety inspections and audits will help managers provide a safe environment for their employees. The use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) by the workers, such as clothing, headgear, and safety glasses is recommended to prevent serious injuries.

 

  • CRUSH HAZARD

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GIF 9: Alice slicing Jabberwock’s head off

Source: tumblr_inline_n32mrbt6TX1rfkzoz.gif

A crush hazard exists when two objects move toward each other or when a moving object approaches a stationary one. In the movie, a crush hazard that is identified is when Alice  battles with the Jabberwock as seen in GIF 9.  Another crush hazard happened during the battle between the Red and White queen, the Jubjub bird was killed when its head was crushed by a giant boulder from a catapult without it noticing.
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IMAGE 2: Jubjub Bird’s head getting crushed

Source: https://www.tumblr.com/

 

RECOMMENDATION TO REDUCE CRUSH HAZARDS:

To prevent hazards from happening, management must follow and keep up-to-date with OSHA regulations. Also all employees must follow safety instructions and standard operating procedures. Furthermore, to reduce risk of serious injuries all employees must be aware of their surroundings in the workplace to create a safe environment for themselves and others. In the workplace, employees should be encouraged to record all issues and hazards. Once something is documented, it is easier to identify and address.  Also marking all hazardous areas with the appropriate notices and signs helps to reduce any hazards.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS

Psychological hazards are defined 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. Psychological hazards are closely associated with physical health in particular, heart diseases. Some psychological factors that may contribute to one’s physical health includes stress from conflict job overload, hostility, boredom, depression, fear and bullying just to name a few.

 

  • BULLYING HAZARD

 

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GIF 10: The Queen Using A Pig’s Belly As A Footstool

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

Bullying was also a major part of the story line. It is mainly exemplified in the various scenes with the Queen, as she controlled all her servants. As illustrated in G.I.F. 10, we can clearly see the Queen using a pig, one of her servants, as a footstool. A FOOTSTOOL!? How can one be so insensitive that they use a living creature as a footstool? Without a doubt this can be described as advantageous in its purest form. This not only portrays the wicked nature of the queen but it in turns violates the Trinidad and Tobago OSH Act Chpt 88:08, Part II 20A. (c) where it states that “no employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall intimidate a worker”. Isn’t it not intimidating to know that your employer can, at any point, call on you to be a footstool? It sure is! This in turn led to a fear hazard.

  • . FEAR HAZARD

GIF 11 & 12: The Queen Punishing her servant

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

As a result of the derogatory manner the queen treated her employees, they were extremely afraid of her. As seen in GIF 11 the frog is literally trembling as he did something displeasing to her. He ate her food! Upon her realizing that it was him, he started explaining himself but she was not interested in what he had to say. She immediately dismissed him. This can be seen in GIF 12. This is a clear violation of the Trinidad and Tobago OSH Act Chpt 88:08, Part II, 20A. (a) where it states “No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall dismiss or threaten to dismiss a worker”. It is clear that her servants do not have job security and are therefore fearful.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE PSYCHOLOGICAL HAZARDS :

Without a doubt, both scenarios depict psychological hazards in the form of bullying and fear. This is therefore an unhealthy environment for the queen’s servants and should be addressed for their optimum comfort. Two ways in which this can be addressed is to 1. Instil proper meditation practices to be used by managers – in this case the queen. This can aid with what seem to be a serious anger issue and reduce her aggressive response to situations that are not pleasing to her. Another way this can be addressed is to implement proper training for both managers and employees – in this case the queen and her servants. This would ensure that the queen is more sensitized to her duty to her employees and hopefully treat them in a much better way. It would also inform the employees of their rights in the workplace and in turn they would know how to treat with their manager and enforce their rights without being dismissed and unfairly treated.

 

ERGONOMIC HAZARDS

Ergonomic hazards are those physical factors of the environment that can cause harm to the musculoskeletal system. These hazards are caused by uncomfortable working stations, repetitive movements, poor body posture and vibrations, amongst other factors. These types of hazards aren’t always immediately obvious making it quite difficult to discern. However, injuries sustained from ergonomic hazards can be as little as a sore muscle or a long-term illness that can be detrimental to the body. The intensity of the injury depends on the length of time being exposed.

 

  • UNCOMFORTABLE FURNITURE

 

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IMAGE 3: The Queen’s Throne

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

Ahhhh we know what you’re thinking, such a royal site, must be furniture  for a queen and her pet, right? Because there’s no way  in hell another human can sit comfortably on that stool on that’s placed on the right side of ”her majesty’s” chair! Oh well, descend your eyes further down.

 

  • POOR POSTURE

 

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GIF 13: The Queen and Alice ascending to The Throne

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

 

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IMAGE 4: The Queen and Alice

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

Yes, you’re seeing correctly, a young lady known as Alice is slouched over the stool. Hazard! hazard! Hazard! Alice causes harm to her musculoskeletal system. Firstly, her posture is poor and her knees are bent lower than usual, almost as though she has to stoop in order to sit. This may cause long term damage to Alice’s  spine. There is also a strong possibility that it can remain permanently bent.  Secondly, Alice can also suffer from sore muscles and poor circulation all due to the manner in which she sat. According to the Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Safety and Health Act 2004 every employee has the right to ask their employer to correct dangerous conditions. In this case Alice is responsible for her own safety, she has the choice to either sit on the stool or remain standing. However, Alice  willingly sat on the stool without asking the queen, to take corrective actions. Such as providing better seating accommodations. Ohh well Alice, we do hope that  better decisions will be made next time.

 

  • POORLY DESIGNED FURNITURE

 

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IMAGE 5: The Mad Hatter and Alice having tea

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/

In this part of the movie it is shown that Alice, in her shrunken state, is sitting on a chair that is too big for her. The table is not at the height of her elbows so it would be very uncomfortable if she were to try and participate in their festivities. It is also shown that the back of the chair is not high enough to accommodate the support of her back, this can lead to sore muscles or even long-term illnesses. If the environment that the employee is working in daily is not up to par, it is up to the employers to eliminate the hazard. The employers can firstly identify them, then take the necessary measures to eliminate them whether using administrative or engineering controls. When Ergonomic Hazards are identified, it may be necessary to redesign aspects of a workspace or employee routine. Anything that could cause employees to experience long or short-term strain should be evaluated, and alterations to procedures and workspaces should be considered. If it’s determined that Ergonomic Hazards cannot be removed from a workplace, controls can help to reduce risks that are involved.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE ERGONOMIC HAZARDS:

We recommend that engineers redesign workspaces in order to accommodate individuals that work in compromising positions. This in return would  reduce strain and improve employee’s body posture. Employers must ensure that all workspaces provide employees with  a full range of motion required to complete a task. Administrative controls reduce risk by changing work processes and activities in order to make them more safe, such as providing employees with break periods that help to reduce short-term strain.

 

CHEMICAL HAZARD

A chemical hazard is a form of occupational hazard that is caused by the exposure of chemicals in the work environment. Exposure to these chemicals in the workplace can be detrimental. These chemical hazards poses a wide range of health and physical issues and therefore should not overlooked. Employees should wear proper PPE or ensure measures are in place to prevent these hazards.

 

  • HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES

 

GIF 14 & 15: Alice Consuming the “Drink Me” Potion

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

In the above illustration, Alice is analyzing a substance labeled “drink me”. She has no idea what the substance contains because it is not properly labeled, but she proceeds anyway to follow the instructions to drink it as it seems like the only way forward or out of the room that is minute compared to her present size. How crazy does someone has to be to drink a substance they know nothing of? The substance was used to make her shrink which may have contained hazardous chemicals based on the ingredients. The possible side effects would have included poisoning, corroding, irritation, sensitizing, or even death. The likelihood of the risk seemed to be low whereas the severity could’ve been very high. Surprisingly, these substances were harmless.

 

  • MERCURY HAZARD

 

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GIF 16: The Mad Hatter’s erratic behaviour

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

Mad Hatter’s erratic behaviour stems from a real life industrial hazard many years ago. Hatters worked in poorly ventilated rooms and were exposed to mercury that shape and convert fur into hats. Evidently, that is exactly where Mad Hatter got his name and character from, although he seems to be one of the not so mad hatters. The mercury poisoned Mad Hatter which showed through his very bright, red, hair and eyes. Although Mad Hatter did not possess many of the symptoms of being harmed by the mercury, some of the symptoms include irritability, excitability and erethism.

 

  • EXHAUST FUMES

 

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GIF 17: Absolem (The Blue Caterpillar) Blowing Smoke from his Hookah

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

In the above image we see the caterpillar blowing smoke into the atmosphere. It is no uncertainty the level of harm that can be caused by such act. Absolem (the caterpillar) blows a volume of smoke into Alice’s and others face while speaking with them. Inhaling smoke can cause a variety of health effects including respiratory problems, shortness of breath and worsen medical conditions. The likelihood of Alice falling ill is rather high since she is considered an at risk person because of her age.  The caterpillar’s careless actions would have been injurious to the health of the others. Although this scene is not based in a working environment, the OSH act section on the prohibition against smoking would have been violated since Absolem was in contact with other persons.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE EXHAUST FUMES EXPOSURE:

To reduce the level of risks posed by chemical hazards, there are a number of controls that can be implemented. These controls are located on a hierarchy ranging all the way from elimination to PPE. Some of these include, but are not limited to, a  proper ventilated area to protect others from the dangers of smoking, ensuring that all substances are clearly labeled and stored in a safe place, substituting harmful substances where possible and the use of protective wears where necessary, for example a face mask.

 

BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS

Biological hazards refers to organisms or matters produced by these organisms that can cause harm to a human’s health. For example, parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi. Hazards of this nature are encountered in the environment and pose a significant threat. Commonly, these microorganisms can enter our body via three avenues. These avenues are; the respiratory system, transmission through contact with bodily fluids or physical contact with contaminated objects.

 

  • MOULD HAZARD

 

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GIF 18: Alice in a room after falling down the Rabbit Hole

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

Here is Alice, confused and scared in some sort of room after falling down the “rabbit hole”. Subsequent to assessing the room, we came to the conclusion that the room is abandoned, dingy and more than likely to be harbouring mould. Consider heavy rains in the forest and a hole that leads to an underground room. Does a damp and mouldy environment come to mind? Sure does for us, Safety First folks. Exposure to damp and mouldy environments poses a risk to one’s health. Lengthy exposure to this environment could have caused throat irritation, nasal stuffiness, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation or even skin irritation for Alice. What if someone who has mould allergies or even a chronic lung illness was exposed to a room of this state? The risk would’ve been much higher, as such, their reaction would’ve been extremely severe.

 

  • BACTERIA HAZARD

 

      

      GIF 19, 20 & 21: Alice Exploring Wonderland

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

As the name of the movie cleverly suggests, Alice wandering off in a bizarre land after falling into the “rabbit hole”. Roaming through this foreign land, as seen in the graphical representations above, she’s not equipped with any personal protective equipment and devices (PPE). Thus, Alice is exposed to the various micro-organisms that live in the plants and animals in Wonderland. These biological hazards can enter Alice’s body through inhalation, absorption, ingestion and even injection. In the scenes that are captured in the images above, Alice is at risk to inhaling the various organisms. Do you think we’re aware when we have inhaled a bacteria? Truth is, we’re likely not to be aware as there is no smell, taste or irritating effects. Moreover, Alice being a teenager, as mentioned before, is classified as an “at risk person”. Persons that fall under this classification are likely not to be very knowledgeable and experienced. Hence, they’re likely to be more at risk than others and ought to be supervised. It’s safe to say Alice is a walking risk hazard.

 

GIF 22 & 23: The Cheshire Cat and The March Hare enjoying tea in the middle of the forest.

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

 

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GIF 24: Mad Hatter walking on the table where they’re consuming foods in the forest.

Source:  https://www.tumblr.com/

In the GIFs above, we can see Alice’s new friends having a meal. In addition to consuming the foods in an open and highly prone to bacteria atmosphere, Mad Hatter thought it was wise to walk on the laden table of food. Is he mad? He has to be! Surely, after this scene, his name wasn’t to be questioned. Just think of all the bacteria that’s under his shoes. There is a high probability that his egotistical action caused some sort of contamination to the food on the table. Thus, exposing those whom he considered his friends to be at risk of ingesting bacteria. This threat definitely could’ve been prevented if Hatter would’ve just walked on the ground like a normal person, but I suppose it’s not in his nature to be normal. In fact, Mad Hatter can  be viewed as violating the OSH Act T&T Chpt. 88:08 Part I 10. (1) (a) where it states “It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the safety of him and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omission at work”. Though this scene doesn’t depict a work environment, we found that it would be useful to use the Act as a standard guide for behaviour in any situation.  

 

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GIF 25: The Bandersnatch licking Alice’s infected wound

Source:  https://makeagif.com/

In GIF 25, the Bandersnatch, who Alice’s first encounter is in fact the reason why she has the cut on her arm, is now reconciling with her as he uses his tongue and saliva to discontinue the spreading of the infection. Prior to meeting up the beast again, Alice travelled throughout the lands neglecting to treat the cut. As one can imagine, the cut got infected. Generally, infected wounds are caused by bacteria that may emanate from the skin, other parts of the body or the external environment. In Alice’s case, this unfamiliar environment which constituted countless microorganisms gave rise to her infected wound. Being that Alice was continuously exposed to bacteria, if she had not met back up with the Bandersnatch, the bacteria would’ve spread and cause infections in other areas of her body. Who would’ve thought that the beast that caused Alice harm would’ve been the one to be her saviour?

There are four levels of biological hazards. Four? Yes, four! I know right. ☹ur bodies reacts differently to each level, it may be as minor as a stomach ache or severe as death. Scary huh? I mean, doesn’t it make you want to isolate yourself? Luckily, our team has done sufficient research and we are able to provide recommendations which can ensure your safety. For the sake of our readers, these recommendations extend beyond the scope of the movie.   

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS:

Firstly, engineering controls are what ought to be the first choice of protection in areas of operations. For example, ventilation systems or  a constructive seal that can create a negative pressure room. Secondly, administrative controls refers to work processes or procedures that minimize the risk of hazard as low as practicably possible. For example, training, regulating personal hygiene, limiting exposure time to hazard by rotating shifts. Finally, personal protective equipment is likely to be the option after both engineering and administrative controls and there is still a threat to the safety and health of an individual. PPE then becomes necessary. Some PPE may include, gloves, face mask or respirator, eyewear protection.

 

CONCLUSION

Health and safety on work sites and in everyday life is something that people must pay close attention too to avoid serious injury or harm. As seen in the movie  hazards can exist in every aspect of life as we do the most routine things. Many times we don’t realise just how dangerous many of the things we do are and in our blog post we sought to show how the simplest things can have great consequences without us even realising it. It is therefore our hope that this article not only gave you better insight into a very popular movie but showed you how mindful you must be of everything you do. So remember this is Alice, Alice follows random rabbits through the forest and neglects safety rules, don’t be like Alice, put Safety First.
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REFERENCES

Alice In Wonderland Movie Review Summary

http://allreaders.com/movie-review-summary/alice-in-wonderland-2010-37581

http://www.oshc.org.hk/oshc_data/files/HotTopic/CB959E.pdf

https://www.slideshare.net/mcivers1979/biological-hazards-

overview

https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm

https://www.slideshare.net/mcivers1979/biological-hazards-overview

https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/chemical_hazards

http://full.chemwatch.net/galleria/LEGSREGS/40-5-3-5-65-3-SB-20060214

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/hazardoustoxicsubstances/

https://safetylineloneworker.com/blog/workplace-hazards-series-ergonomics/

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THE END

 

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OSH Hazards in “Deepwater Horizon” (2016)

TERRIFYING. SUSPENSEFUL. EXTRAORDINARY.

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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yASbM8M2vg

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.

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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

Conclusion

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.

 

References

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/

 

 


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

 

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

 INTRODUCTION

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


Mechanical Hazards

Machine Chop/Cut Hazard

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

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

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

 

 TEMPERATURE HAZARD

 

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Image 3 & 4: Carpentry Shop Temperature Hazard

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

 

PHYSICAL HAZARDS

Trip Hazards

Fall Hazards: Slip and fall & Trip and fall

Crush and Lifting Hazard

 

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

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

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

 

Crush and Lifting Hazards

 

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Image 7: Standing Lumber posing Crush and Lifting Hazard

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

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

 

Electrical Hazards

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

Wall plugs filled with dust

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

Recommendations:

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

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

 

Fire Hazard

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

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

 

 “Who hurts when I get hurt”?

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

References:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


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Accident Free Analyzes the Implementation of OSH Practices in the SLDD Building at UWI, St. Augustine Campus

Hey, students of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine! Have you ever questioned the safety of your university? Have you ever wondered whether you are safe when going to the SLDD for assistance?  Well today is your lucky day! Accident Free is here to take you on a ride which will have bumps, but also smooth patches because we are investigating and highlighting all of the negatives as well as the positives in the SLDD building. Most students are unaware of the hazards in their school until they fall victim to it. Let’s learn about safety and health issues together because occupational safety and health matters.

Hope you enjoy the ride with us 🙂

Here is a brief introduction of The Student Life and Development Department (SLDD):

The building is a fairly new administrative division in the University of the West Indies. This Unit falls under the Office of the Deputy Principal and was started in 2006 as a part of the University’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to all students. The SLDD offers two main services which are: Providing Academic Support to students of the UWI St. Augustine campus at all levels of their academic career, and ensuring equal access (infrastructure/academic) to all students who enter the University system with a disability. Furthermore, 2016 has made it one decade since this department has been operational thus, our group decided to analyse the implementation of occupational safety and health practices both inside and outside the building of this unit.

A risk assessment was conducted where we identified the varying hazards that existed; namely physical, biological, chemical, ergonomic and psychological. Additionally, we investigated if necessary requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of T&T as amended 2006 were being met. These include safety, health, welfare and fire provisions of the Act. 

RISK ASSESSMENT

  • Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are the most common hazards around us and are more than likely present in most, if not all industrial establishments. Examples of this type of hazard include: constant loud noise, vibrations, heat stress and trip and fall.

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Image 1 illustrates physical hazards in the footpath for workers



The Employer has responsibilities to the employee that he must uphold according to the OSH Act. Image 1 depicts the crudely constructed bridge over an open trench that workers must traverse daily. Firstly, this bridge is not fastened to the ground but instead simply placed over the gap. This can shift and cause a serious fall to occur. Secondly, the open trench contains protruding metal rods that can cause serious damage to anyone that falls into them. These should be covered as soon as possible to limit the risk to persons. Finally, the bridge contains no hand rails. This means a person has no way of steadying themselves if they become unbalanced on the bridge.

 

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Image 2 illustrates worker wearing improper head gear and absence of eye wear

The OSH Act, as stipulated in Section 23 (1) gives clear guidelines about the use of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when on a job site. These guidelines are present in law to prevent persons working on the site and those visiting, from being physically hurt in a myriad of ways. However, these PPEs can only be effective if they are used in their intended purpose. The pictures attached show that the employer has indeed provided his workers with PPE such as fluorescent vests, boots, gloves and eye-glasses but some workers were not using the PPE in an effective manner and thus, exposed themselves to physical hazards. Image 3 below shows that although the worker is wearing his vest, he is not wearing gloves to protect his hands from abrasions and cuts, neither is he wearing his eye wear properly exposing his eyes to damage from dust and flying debris. Image 2 shows a worker accurately using his gloves and vest however he was not wearing the correct headgear and thus was exposing his head to physical harm. Both images show that the workmen aren’t wearing any face masks to protect themselves against dust. Extended exposure to inhaled dust can cause sensitization of the respiratory membranes leading to asthma, allergies or bronchitis, (Johnson, 2016).

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Image 3 depicts the absence of head gear and gloves. The worker is also not wearing protective eye wear

RECOMMENDATIONS

Our investigations show that while OSH is being implemented at the job site there is still room for improvement. Proper implementation of the OSH principles would reduce the risk of job site injuries tremendously. A safety officer should be assigned to the site to ensure full compliance to the requirements of the Act at all times. For instance, ensuring that the workers wear their personal protective equipment where necessary.

  • Biological Hazards

Biological hazards are organic material that potentially have the ability to harm or kill living things such as human beings and other living organisms. Most firms look past this hazard leaving the public, their employees and themselves at risk.

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Image 4 shows a very clean eating area where the employees enjoy their meals

The assessment of the biological hazards within this firm was favourable, meaning the firm went beyond required measures to reduce possible risk. They provided a separate room for employees to warm or prepare their meals and a dining room where employees were able to sit and enjoy their meals.

Individually, these rooms are spacious, clean and well equipped with sanitizing material. Clean counter tops, the provision of hand washing liquid, access to a clean supply of running water are all examples of how the firm limits exposure to organic material that could possibly cause/spread diseases, viruses, infections and possibly even death.

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Image 5 illustrates a sanitizer dispenser 

 

 

This organization teaches its employees the importance of human hygiene. Each bathroom within the department is not only clean, but offers its users the luxury of utilizing sanitizing dispensers, strategically placed on doors of the bathroom, on the wall beside the sink and the utility room entrance reducing the possible risk of individuals being exposed or exposing others to bacteria that can be harmful to them.

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  • Chemicals Hazards

Chemicals hazards are injuries and or illnesses that can be caused by chemicals within an organization. Dish washing liquid, hand soap and all other cleaning solutions may seem to be harmless to the naked eye but when investigated closely, one can see that the misuse of any of these chemicals can lead to major reactions and cause major issues.

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Image 7 illustrates a sink area with dish washing liquids and lack of rubber dish washing gloves

The kitchen the company provided for its employees is clean and well equipped with cleaning solutions. Unfortunately, the firm failed to supply the suitable complementary material for employees to use with the cleaning supplies. The lack of rubber dish washing gloves exposes its users to the chemicals within the cleaning product. Persons can suffer hand burns, skin cancer and even allergic reactions from coming into contact with the material.

 

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Image 8  depicts cleaning supplies in a separate room known as the “Store Room”

 

Fortunately, the firm properly stored most of its strong cleaning chemicals and supplies in a room that was properly labelled. The storing of such hazardous material in a secured room limits human contact with such products and reduces the risk individuals within this firm could possibly have faced if these materials were not properly secured.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

There were little risks with respect to chemical hazards. Therefore, the management and staff of the SLDD should continue to safeguard themselves from this type of hazard by actively utilizing their store room. However, we recommend that they assess the toxicity of each cleaning material they use and ensure appropriate protective gear is provided for employee use such as rubber dish washing gloves.

 

  • Ergonomic Hazards

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Image 9 depicts seating for indoor workers

According to the University of Chicago’s study on Environmental Health & Safety, Ergonomic hazards refer to workplace conditions that pose the risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system of the worker. It was seen in the SLDD building that sufficient seating was provided for those who worked inside the building. However, some employees, when asked, complained of back pains due to the type of seating and the amount of time they were required to sit to do work.

Another thing that was noticed was that the University provided these employees in this department with a spacious work area, thus, ‘confined space’ was not something that they had to worry about.

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Image 10 depicts a spacious indoor work area

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Image 11  depicts insufficient seating for construction workers

Although adequate seating was provided for workers inside the building, it can’t be said that the same was provided for the construction workers outside the building. We see in Image 11 that there is limited seating available for the workers and that one of the two seats available, is actually being used as a stand for their water cooler. This perhaps would lead workers into sitting on the ground or wherever they find a spot which may cause strain to their backs, necks and other parts of their bodies.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The University should look into providing for the indoor staff, more ergonomically comfortable seats which would result in less strain to their backs and other body parts especially when they have to work for long hours. Another recommendation could be to provide more chairs for the construction workers which would prevent them from sitting on the ground or on any other inappropriate surface when taking a break or having lunch.

 

  • Psychological Hazards

During the period of construction, the workers of the Student Life and Development Department building were still required to work through all of the noise, the dust and also the inconvenience. Due to this, stress arose amongst the workers as they were very uncomfortable working under these conditions. The noise level was very distracting and it was extremely hard for them to concentrate on their required duties under these conditions. Workplace stress can lead to anxiety, aggression, poor decision making skills, absenteeism, and low productivity. Therefore, as small as it may seem, stress is a very important factor that organizations should avoid within their organizations as it affects it all around.

In addition to the noise level effects from the construction, we conducted brief interviews with members of the staff and they also complained about the workload as they are currently understaffed. Therefore, most days even without the noise level of the construction workers, they experienced some level of stress.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to avoid workplace stress happening again due to work done outside of the building, the manager should ensure that all of the employees are to be transferred into another building for the duration of any of the building’s construction. Moreover, giving the construction men their freedom to perform their duties and also the employees of the building would be in a peaceful environment until their building repairs are done.

 

The OSH Act

  • Safety

Safety is the condition of being protected from anything that could cause hazards, threats, and injury to someone. After taking a closer look at the OSH Act, the University of the West Indies was able to meet most of the requirements needed for the safety of its staff.

As it pertains to section IV number 32, Protective “clothing and devices”, the workers in the building met the standards required by the Act for a safe working environment to prevent any hazards. However, the workers outside of the building failed to meet the requirements. Some of the workers worked with no gloves as they continued to dig the drains. The wearing of gloves could aid in the prevention of cuts while lifting rough objects like bricks, and while interacting with objects with sharp protrusions like steel and wood.

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Image 12  portrays a worker wearing no safety gloves while dealing with electrical lines

 

Another safety issue is that these workers worked in close proximity to electrical lines. Some of the workers had on proper gloves but some did not have on appropriate electrical gear to work with electrical wires while digging the drain. This was another important safety issue. Additionally, the employer should provide proper work gears for all his workers and should also ensure that all workers wear it to prevent any accidents from happening.

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Image 13 shows a worker wearing no safety mask or protective eye wear to prevent dust 

 

 

 

In section VI “the Removal of Dust and Fumes”, both the workers inside the building and outside the building were forced to work in the dusty environment. Neither the workers inside nor outside had on proper working gear, such as ventilation/dust masks as they continued to work. The dust mask would have prevented the persons from inhaling the dust on a daily basis. This amount of dust inhaled is unsafe and could affect the workers in both the long term and the short term with diseases such as respiratory diseases.

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Image 14 shows a worker wearing no face mask to prevent the inhalation of dust nor gloves to protect his hands 

In Image 14 above, you could see the dirt dug by the workers on the sight. There were no nets or any other item used to cover the dirt. As a result of this, the dust could easily travel with the wind to the workers as well as staff and students who park in close proximity to the work site on a daily basis. It can also be seen that the worker in Image 14 above, is shoveling the dirt without a face mask or gloves on. This lack of personal protective equipment was the norm on the site.

RECOMMENDATIONS

We recommend that the employer  puts a system in place for example, hiring a safety officer, to ensure that the workers wear their protective gears at all times while they are working.

 

  • Health

The OSH Act states, under Section 32 of the Health Regulations that ‘Respiratory protection of an approved standard shall be provided and maintained, where necessary, for use by all persons in the industrial establishment.’ A respirator is a protective device that covers the nose and mouth or the entire face to guard the wearer against hazardous atmospheres. Employees require respirators to work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where harmful fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapours, sprays or in this case, dusts are present.

Respirators protect workers against these health hazards which may cause cancer, lung impairment or even death. The Act requires employers to provide an effective respirator for use by all persons to protect against workplace hazards. Different hazards require different respirators, and employees are responsible for wearing the appropriate respirator.

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Image 15  depicts a worker wearing an improper respirator mask

Image 15 shows a construction worker without a respirator mask. Some were even seen, as in the same image, with their own personalized respirators which entailed covering their nose and mouths with a t-shirt. Having that type of respirator is equivalent to having a defective or damaged respirator which is almost as good as wearing no respirator at all.

The employees inside the building were subjected to a variety of irritating sounds from work being conducted on the outside of the building. These sounds not only contributed to stress and loss of concentration in the workplace, but it can also cause hearing impairment depending on how high the level of sound is. The Act states, under Section 34, that ‘Every owner, occupier or employer shall take adequate steps to prevent hearing impairment caused by noise, and diseases caused by vibration, from occurring to persons in, or in the vicinity of, his industrial establishment…..’ This means that the employers have a duty to protect employees from the risk associated with excessive noise. In this case employees were placed at risk of hearing damage from the noise at work. Imagine working in a building where digging and pounding was going on right outside the door. This is what the employees were exposed to on a day-to-day basis.

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Image 16  depicts a sledgehammer that contributed to noise

Ventilation is another very important aspect when dealing with health and safety in the workplace. Proper ventilation provides clean air drawn from an external source outside of the workplace and circulated throughout the building. These sources include natural or fresh air or by a functioning air conditioning system, in which it dilutes and removes humid air and provides sufficient air movement to give a feeling of freshness without causing a draught.

In addition to proper ventilation, companies also need to ensure that their workplaces are maintained at an appropriate temperature. The weather to date can be very unpredictable. Some days there is heavy rain which leaves the place extremely cold and some days the weather is scorching hot. This can increase the level of carbon dioxide and decrease the level of oxygen which in turn can cause fatigue, headaches, sinus congestion, dizziness, shortness of breath and can affect the employee’s ability to concentrate. A proper working ventilation system is then needed to accommodate this.

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Image 17 portrays a proper ventilation system which is subject to occasional break downs

At first glance the air conditioning system seen in Image 17 looks like a well-functioning system but it was said by the employees inside the building that it was prone to occasional break downs. Thus, employers did adhere to some extent the regulations stipulated in the Act under Section 36 which states ‘Every occupier of an industrial establishment that is not ventilated by a functioning air-conditioning system shall secure and maintain therein adequate and suitable ventilation by the circulation of fresh air.’

RECOMMENDATIONS

Poor ventilation is a hazard. And like all hazards, it poses a risk to one’s health and safety and thus, must be eliminated or controlled. In cases such as this when the air conditioning system is not functioning properly, especially in extremely hot weather temperatures, installing fans in specific areas of the work room can be a solution to eliminate or minimize the effects of the heat.

 

  • Welfare

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Image 18 shows that there is  adequate,  clean and cool drinking water provided

In terms of the welfare provisions specified in the OSH Act, it was found that The University of the West Indies met some of the regulations identified. The Act states under S. 39 (1) that, “In every factory, effective arrangements shall be made to provide and maintain at suitable points conveniently situated for all persons employed therein, sufficient supply of cool, wholesome drinking water.”  It is clear that provisions were made for both employees working inside the building as well as the construction workers.

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Image 19 shows a very clean washroom area with accompanying soaps and suitable hand dryers

It was found that the University did in fact provide washing facilities in accordance with S.40 of the Act which states, “The occupier of every factory shall provide and maintain separately for men and women employed therein, adequate, clean and easily accessible washing facilities, which are provided with soap and suitable hand drying materials or devices and such other provisions as are prescribed.”

Additionally, to some extent, the University also complied with the provisions stated under S. 45 (1), “In every factory the occupier shall provide and maintain for the persons employed therein, adequate and suitable restrooms or lunchrooms and lunchrooms shall be convenient for the eating of meals and shall be provided with adequate lighting, ventilation and drinking water.”  This is so because only lunchroom and restroom facilities were made available to persons working inside the building and no facilities were made available to the construction workers. Therefore, the construction workers were forced to take lunch in the area where they work. This is extremely unsanitary and dangerous as the area could possible contain biological and chemical hazards.

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Image 20 depicts a worker eating on the site

It is also important to note that there were no First Aid appliances present within this building. This is in fact a direct violation of the Act under S. 43 (1) which states that, “In every factory, there shall be provided and maintained so as to be readily accessible during all working hours, such number of fully equipped first-aid boxes of cupboards as may be prescribed.” This presents a serious problem in the event that an accident occurs. Furthermore, as the building is also a construction site, first aid appliances are a necessity.

The University did, to some extent, adhere to the regulations stated under S.5 (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (Welfare) Regulations which states, “Where any employed persons have in the course of their employment reasonable opportunities for sitting without detriment to their work, there shall be provided and maintained for their use, suitable facilities for sitting sufficient to enable them to take advantage of those opportunities.”

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There was adequate seating for workers inside the building but not enough for the construction workers outside of the building as seen in the slideshow above. Of the two seats seen in the picture present outside the building, one of them acted as a stand for the workers’ water cooler. This is a clear indication that there was neither adequate nor suitable seating provided for these construction workers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In light of the findings, some obvious recommendations would be to have a first aid box which would aid in the prevention or worsening of any injuries. Additionally, the construction workers should be provided with better seating arrangements and should not be eating in the same place where they work. Perhaps a tent a decent distance away with a table and sufficient seating could be provided for the workmen to have lunch where it’s much cleaner and safer.

 

  • Fire

The industrial establishment in question properly implemented the fire provisions of the OSH Act with respect to means of escape in case of a fire and adequate fire fighting equipment. Even though the fire section which is part V of the Act does not apply to this industrial establishment, it is impressive that they still comply with its provisions which will mitigate all risks encountered as a result of a fire. There are many exits which indicate that the employees in the building are well prepared to escape a fire.

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Image 24 portrays a door in the kitchen area of the building as a means of exit in the case of a fire

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Image 23 portrays the main emergency exit in the building

 

Image 23 above shows that there is an exit in the main area of the building, which is the Emergency Exit and it is wide enough to accommodate all of the employees. Also, the emergency exit is clear of any obstructions which may slow down the escape process. Additionally, there is an exit in the kitchen area of the building, as shown in image 24 above.  It shall also be noted that the doors that are provided for use as fire exits are, while work is in progress left unlocked, and is secured in such a way as to be capable of being readily and quickly opened from the inside. It was reiterated by the Health and Safety Authority of the US that all workplaces must have clearly identified means of escape in the event of fire. These escape routes must be kept clear at all times to ensure that everyone can exit the workplace in the event of a fire or other emergency, (2016 Health & Safety Authority).

There are also ample fire extinguishers in the building. Therefore, members of staff are well equipped to protect themselves in the event of a blaze.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

We therefore recommend that all members of staff be well educated on how to use the fire extinguishers and that fire drills be practised every now and then, since an interview conducted with one member of staff, revealed that they never had a fire drill before. However, they are well protected to guard themselves against any arm from a fire and they should continue implementing and adhering to these safety and health laws.

Conclusively, it was clear that this department made it their legal and moral duty to implement key OSH practices to their unit. However, it was evident that aspects of the office can be improved to minimize risks as low as practically possible. We recommend that these paramount improvements be addressed immediately so that health and safety will no longer be compromised.

Always remember – “Precaution is better than cure”. ~Edward Coke

Sincerely,

Accident Free 🙂

CITATIONS

  • OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT 2004 AS AMENDED 2006

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3079/osha3079.html

http://www.takeonestep.org/Pages/yoursafety/safenotsorry/workplacehazards.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/asthmatic-bronchitis-symptoms-treatment

http://safety.uchicago.edu/tools/faqs/ergonomics.shtml

https://www.google.tt/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=safety+

http://www.workplacesafetyadvice.co.uk/ventilation-in-the-workplace.html

http://www.hsa.ie/eng/topics/fire/emergency_escape_and_fire_fighting/

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Risk Assessment?

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

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

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

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

Wood Work Shop Analysis

Background of business and individual

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

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Woodwork: Image 1: Table with tools

   

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Woodwork: Image 2: Some protective gear

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

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

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Woodwork: Image 3: Clutter at the workplace

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Woodwork: Image 4: Dangerous equipments used in daily operations

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

The below images shows the general workshop

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Woodwork: Image 5: The entire work space

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

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Recommendations

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

Doctor’s Office Analysis

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

Hazards Identified:

Biological

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

Physical

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

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

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

Health and Safety Practice on a day to day basis:

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

A Carpenter’s Analysis

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Carpenter: Image 1: The workplace for roofing works

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

Barber’s Shop Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proper, suitable, appropriate signage.

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Barbershop: Image 2: Proper signs for customers

Appropriate, suitable lighting necessary for operation.

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Barbershop: Image 3: Suitable lighting for operations

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

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Barbershop Image 4: Using protective gloves while cleaning work space

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

References

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


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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.