The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

End of the Exxon Valdez

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 11, 2013

The infamous oil tanker Exxon Valdez is currently being dismantled on a beach in the Indian coastal city of Alang.

Like ants devouring a dead insect, ship-breakers use gas-torches to cut apart the 34,000-ton steel giant where the scrap is sold to Indian steel-mills.

In about a month, there will be nothing left of the former oil tanker, which in 1989 was responsible for the largest oil spill ever in the United States, leaking more than 41 million liters (10.8 million gallons) of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound.

After the accident, the Exxon Valdez was converted into an ore carrier.

The Indian scrap yard and salvage company bought the Valdez for USD $16 million for the scrap value of the steel.

The ship was then grounded at high tide on the beach at Alang and more than 300 workers are being paid a few rupees a day to dismantle the vessel.

Although the Valdez contains no more toxic materials than other ships, environmentalists took advantage of the former tanker's prominence to raise their profile by trying to block its import into India.

Although the greens were unsuccessful, they at least brought attention to the unsafe conditions for many low-wage earners at scrap yards in India.

In October 2012, for example, six workers died in a fire in Alang as they were dismantling the oil tanker Union Brave on the beach.

And in Alang alone, 173 workers have died in ship scrapping yards since 2001.

But business is booming for the "iron eaters," as the scrappers are called, and not just in India.

Over 1,000 ships were scrapped worldwide in 2012.

India accounted for the largest number, 527, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and China where the steel is a very valuable resource.

The high-quality steel used to make the sips is in great demand and the scrapping companies pay about $400 per ton for ships.

Recycling ships currently satisfies 9 percent of India's demand for steel.

And the Chinese are now vigorously establishing scrapping operations.

China's scrappers need  ships badly. They have invested a lot of money in new facilities and, now that the price of steel in the country is falling, they have to fight for every ship.

Is high-visibility clothing really necessary?

Graham Marshall - Sunday, March 10, 2013

There is no doubt that in some jobs high visibility clothing is absolutely necessary.

Anywhere that people and vehicles are in close proximity, for example.

At the roadside; on railways; or in maritime situations with a risk of "man overboard".

But is hi-vis really needed in offices?

Or for workers who visit people's homes or work in children in playgrounds?

What's the logic behind wearing hi-viz in those low-risk situations?

As Judith Hackitt, head of the UK Health and Safety Executive has recently identified, the spread of hi-viz clothing is symptomatic of the wider over-application of health and safety regulations.

It's a symptom of people presuming that something which is good and necessary in one circumstance must be good and necessary in all situations.

Except it isn't.

The need to clothe all adults and children in protective clothing has no basis in law.

Health and Safety Regulations covering protective clothing were introduced to help manage real risk, not as part of unthinking, blanket policies.

If you work in a high risk workplace, then hi-viz may be necessary.

But if there is little risk, then the law does not require you to wear hi-viz

We all need to be able to distinguish when it is necessary and when it is not.

Double Blow to Promoters of Speed Cameras

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 09, 2013

We've long-argued that hiding speed-cameras in the bushes or the back of parked Nissan SUVs is a sham and has no place in a modern road-safety campaigns.

No modern health and safety program or professional in the business-world would advocate such an approach to safety promotion.

And the use of such cameras has now recieved a double blow.

Firstly, a judge in the US state of Ohio has said that automated speed-traffic cameras are "a scam" that cheats drivers.

And the UK Department of Transport has also now been forced to review speeding fines and infringements for thousands of motorists because cameras were used to trap motorists on roads where the posted legal speed limits were not clear to drivers.

Over in Ohio, Hamilton County Common Pleas' Judge - Robert Ruehlman - on Thursday struck-down the "automated speed enforcement program" where two installed cameras reportedly resulted in 6,600 speeding citations in the first month after enforcement began in September. 

The judge noted that the 6,600 infringements issued were more than three times the actual population of the village where the cameras were installed.

In making his decision, the Judge said that the speed cameras were "nothing more than a sham!".

He went on to say that the camera were engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of Three Card Monty (what we Australians call "Find the lady").

He added, "It is a scam that motorists can't win."

He noted that individuals and businesses have suffered as a result of the traffic cameras. "Churches have lost members who are frightened to come to Elmwood and individuals who have received notices were harmed because they were unable to defend themselves against the charges brought against them," he said.

In America, 13 states have speed cameras in operation, while 12 states have passed laws prohibiting them, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In the USA, critics of speed and red-light cameras argue that the devices violate motorists' rights.

The say law enforcement agencies are using automatic cameras mainly to raise revenue, not to boost traffic safety.

We tend to agree that this is the same situation here in Western Australia.

Heather Bryant becomes UK's Chief Inspector of Construction

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 08, 2013

The Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) has appointed a new Chief Inspector of Construction.

Heather Bryant will replace Philip White at the end of March.

Heather joined UK HSE from private industry in 1987.

Heather has worked as an inspector in a number of industries, including construction, agriculture, engineering and manufacturing.

She is currently the UK HSE’s divisional director responsible for the Southern field operations division, which covers London, South East and the East of England.

Heather, who is a member of the HSE Construction Programme Board, becomes HSE’s second female chief inspector of construction – Sandra Caldwell was the first.

After four years in post, Philip moves to lead HSE’s operational strategy division, which oversees the regulation of key sectors such as waste and recycling, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The Chief Inspector of Construction heads a division of 260 specialist inspectors, policy officials and support staff.

Unfortunately, the construction industry remains one of Britain's most dangerous industries, with 49 people killed and 2,884 seriously injured in 2011 - 2012.

So Heather certainly has a lot to do.

WA Mining Fatalities in 2012

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Mining Sector in WA was fatality-free in 2012 - the first time this has been achieved since Mining accident statistics began to be recorded in 1896.

The fatal injury frequency rate has also been reduced by 81 per cent over the past decade.

These are significant positive results and it is particularly pleasing when you consider the industry employs close to 100,000 workers.

WA employs 63 Mines Inspectors who perform around 2,400 site visits per year.


Over the past three financial years, the department has temporarily halted operations of 418 sites over safety concerns.

And we're happy to have played some small part in this cultural change.  It's now more than 15-years since I was first engaged by WMC Resources (now part of BHP Billiton) during the days of the elimination of fatalities task force in WMC.

Peter Plavina and Chris Bradshaw at WMC were early pioneers and an inspiration to me!

Lumley Insurance Finds Experienced Drivers are More Accident Prone

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Analysis of accident claims made in the past three years to Lumley Insurance has shown that experienced truck drivers have more accident than the newcomers.

And 81 percent of the insurance companies costs come from these accidents caused by truck drivers.

According to the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA), a driver with between six to 10 years’ experience is more at risk of having a claimable accident.

The new research shows that there is a pattern regarding the cause and cost of truck accident claims in the dangerous goods industry.

Dangerous goods truck drivers appear take training and safety on board in their first few years on the job; but over time, complacency or lack of cultural reinforcement leads to an increase in the rate of accidents.

In response, the ACAPMA is calling for increased driver safety training and risk management initiatives.

Businesses need to focus on educating their drivers about the role they play in their own safety.

Drivers need to be taught how to analyse their own at-risk of behaviours and attitudes before getting behind the steering wheel.

It’s time for businesses to get proactive about training so the safety culture is improved just when experienced drivers become more relaxed about safety.

Greenies should be driving V8 Petrol Range Rovers

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The eco-mentalist focus on global warming, or "climate change" as it is nowadays is beginning to have serious negative consequences on urban air quality and on the health of people who live it British cities.

This is because the toxic fumes produced by diesal-engined cars - promoted as a "green" alternative to petrol because of its reduced CO2 output - are significantly more damaging to health than those from petrol engines.

The research, published by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change shows that diesal-related air pollution contributes to lung disease, heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory problems.

The findings are an embarrassment for successive governments, which have been conned by the climate-change agenda into encouraged a switch to diesel since 2001 by linking road and company car tax to CO2 emissions.

Diesel engines have long been promoted as "green" by car makers, governments and environmental groups because they produce less CO2 than petrol.

And vehicles with poor fuel economy and high CO2 emissions are also penalized by higher fuel duty tax, while diesels are not subject to road tax or congestion charges.

As a result of all this focus on CO2, petrol car sales are now 15 per cent down since 2011.

But the new research estimates that diesel-related health problems cost the Country more than 10 times more than problems caused by petrol fumes.

And only last year, the UN WHO declared that diesel exhaust caused cancer and was comparable in its effects to secondary cigarette smoking.

No account is being taken of the health damage done by diesel fumes because CO2 emissions are seen as the sole benchmark for environmental responsibility.

And the Campaign for Clean Air, a London watchdog group accused the government of deliberately exacerbating health problems by in effect subsidizing diesel.

A 2011 test by government to measure emissions from vehicles in everyday use concluded that, while petrol emissions had improved by 96 per cent, emissions of nitrogen oxide from diesel cars and light goods vehicles have not decreased for the past 15-20 years.

And I'm glad to be doing my bit by continuing to drive a 4.5 litre V8 Petrol Range Rover Vogue.  And who'd have thought you could call me a greeny?


UK PPE Regulations (2002)

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 04, 2013

In the United Kingdom, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (2002); and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992, as amended) provide the main requirements to be met for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at work.

Other special regulations cover hazardous substances (including lead and asbestos), and also noise and radiation.

In the UK, every employer has a duty (where necessary) regarding the provision and use of PPE.

PPE is equipment that will protect workers against known hazards at work.

PPE can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.

It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include hazards which could impact on:

+  The lungs (e.g., hazardous substances);

+  The head and ears (e.g., kinetic hazards and noise);

+  The eyes (e.g., kinetic hazards, radiation hazards (UV) or chemicals);

+ The skin (e.g., hazardous substances such as acids); and

+  The body, hands and feet (kinetic hazards, chemicals, bio-hazards, radiation sources, etc).

So, if PPE is still needed after implementing other controls, employers must provide the PPE for employees free of charge.

Employers must also choose the PPE carefully and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults in the PPE.

In selecting and using PPE, the employer should ask: Who is exposed to the hazards and what type? How long are they exposed to the hazards? How much hazard are they exposed to?

When selecting and using PPE, make sure to select products which are CE marked in accordance with the PPE Regulations (2002).

Purchase only from reputable suppliers who can advise you on PPE equipment that suits the user. If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist.

Employers must never allow exemptions from wearing PPE for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes'.

And ensure that PPE is properly looked after and stored when not in use.

If the PPE is reusable, it must be cleaned and kept in good condition and regularly inspected according to a schedule.

Also ensure to use the correct replacement parts which match the original (e.g., respirator filters).

Whisky Distillary Fire

Graham Marshall - Sunday, March 03, 2013

Now this is what I call a real catastrophic disaster!

A court in Glasgow (Scotland) was told how two workers were filling whisky casks in a warehouse when a fire broke out causing the loss of more than 17,500 litres of the precious liquid.

The fire happened on 29 June 2011 when the men were on a metal walkway at the top levels of the warehouse using flexible hoses to fill 450-litre casks with whisky.

Having filled four casks, one worker turned to see a jet of whisky shooting up towards a ceiling light fitting above a fork lift truck.

The whisky hit the light fitting and a flame exploded over the forklift.

Both workers fled the warehouse, activating the fire alarm as they left.

Thousands of litres of the burning spirit poured down the racked casks and onto the forklift truck until the supplying pump was turned off about 15 minutes later.

The forklift truck was described as looking like 'a Christmas pudding once brandy is set alight'.

An investigation into the fire by the UK HSE found that the central aisle lights in the warehouse should not have been used in a flammable atmosphere and, had they been checked, they would have been identified as an ignition source trigger.

The investigation also highlighted that the filling equipment was not suitable for use to transfer a hazardous substance like alcohol at pressure.

Had the company taken the simple steps of checking the light fittings were suitable for use in a flammable atmosphere and that the equipment used to transfer the alcohol was fit for purpose this incident could have been prevented.


Types of PPE

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 02, 2013

In the United Kingdom, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (2002); and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992, as amended) provide the main requirements to be met for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at work.

Other special regulations cover hazardous substances (including lead and asbestos), and also noise and radiation.

In the UK, every employer has a duty (where necessary) regarding the provision and use of PPE.

PPE is equipment that will protect workers against known hazards at work and there are several specific types of PPE that can be used to protect specific parts of the human body.  These types are highlighted below.

+   Eyes - safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face-shields, and visors. Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly.

+  Head and neck - industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and fire-fighters' helmets. Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection.  Don't forget neck protection, (e.g., scarves for use during welding).  And remember to replace head protection if it is damaged.

+   Ears - earplugs, earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones, and semi-insert/canal caps.  Make sure to provide the correct hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to use them. Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication.

+  Hands and arms - gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm.  Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught.  Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals so take care in selecting the correct gloves for the task.  Seek specialist advice if need-be.  Note that barrier creams may provide additional protection, but their use is unreliable and they should not be used instead of appropriate PPE protection.  Also note that wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this.

+   Feet and legs- safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear (e.g., foundry boots or chainsaw boots).  Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil- or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating.  In all cases, appropriate footwear should be selected for the identified hazards within the work being conducted.

+   Lungs – respiratory protective equipment (RPE).  Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering face-pieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators.  Make sure any respirator in use fits properly.

There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air (e.g., fresh-air hose, compressed airline and SCBA - self-contained breathing apparatus). The correct type and size of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances.

Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge

+   Whole body PPE- conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits. The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility clothing.

And don't forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets where these are needed.

+   There may also be a requirement to provide emergency equipment.  Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for PPE equipment for use in emergencies, like SCBA, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.

Find out more information by searching online for the following:

+  Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide HSG53; and

A short guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 Leaflet INDG174 PDF.

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