The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Bad Experience with Qatar Airlines

Graham Marshall - Thursday, July 17, 2014

I am flying today in Business Class on Flight QR8 from Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport and it has been my misfortune to discover that Qatar Airlines will not allow my wife enter the Premier Lounge with me as she is only booked in economy.

We've arrived at the airport 3-hours early with the intention of relaxing in the lounge prior to our departure to Australia.

Because of Qatar's short-sided policy on allowing guests to join premium ticket-holders, I'm afraid I cannot recommend Qatar as a good service provider for international business travellers.

Unless there is no other option, I certainly won't be flying with Qatar again.

Risk of Being Hit by Space Debris

Graham Marshall - Sunday, November 10, 2013

The recent loss of the European Space Agency's Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) Satellite peaked my interest regarding the relative risk to people from falling space debris.

The GOCE satellite crashed to Earth on the 27th October in 40-50 fragments after its fuel supply ran out.

The 15-metre long satellite, weighing in around 250kgs was originally placed in a low Earth orbit about 160 miles above the Earth's surface.

The satellite was launch in 2009, but the exact location of where it would eventually crash was never known.

Most of the satellite was expected to burn up at an altitude of 50-miles, but at least a quarter of it's mass would survive re-entry and hit the ground over an area of "a few hundred kilometers" - according to France's National Centre for Space Studies.

Apparently, it is estimated that about 100 tonnes of man-made space debris re-enters the Earth's atmosphere from space every year.

Between 20-40 percent of the debris survives re-entry and strikes the Earth's surface.

But in 50-years of human space exploration, no one has been killed or injured by falling space junk.

The relative risk is around 1.5 million times lower than being killed in a domestic accident such as falling down the stairs.

Inflight Medical Emergency

Graham Marshall - Friday, May 31, 2013

The chance of being on a flight which is disrupted by a medical emergency are just over 1 chance in 600.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, medical emergencies occur on 1 in every 604 flights in the USA.

That works out at about 44,000 medical emergencies each year in the USA alone.  .

Only about 0.3 per cent of medical emergencies result in a fatality however.

And in 75 per cent of emergencies, a trained health professional on board came forward to help once the call for assistance was made by the Pilot.


So your odds of surviving a on-board medical emergency seem pretty good. 

Across the World, there are nearly 95,000 commercial flights made each day and on average, about 157 of these flights are affected by a medical emergency.

Offshore Oilwork Work Seven Times More Dangerous

Graham Marshall - Sunday, May 19, 2013
The chance of getting killed while working in the offshore oil and gas industry is seven times higher than for all workers in the United States, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of offshore fatal injuries between 2003 and 2010. 

It’s getting to work that is the most dangerous part of an offshore worker’s job, the study concluded: 65 of the 128 deaths during the seven-year period studied, or 51 percent, were attributed to transportation accidents.

And 49 of those involved helicopter accidents, all in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Transportation events (specifically helicopter crashes) were the most frequent fatal event in this industry.

The study also points out that since the adoption of new technology in late 2009 that uses satellites to send weather and other emergency information to air traffic controllers and aircraft, no fatal weather-related helicopter crashes have occurred in connection with oil and gas operations. 

The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology supplants the reliance of pilots and air traffic controllers on radar, which does not pick up low-flying aircraft, and traditional radio communications equipment, which have limited capabilities and are not effective in warning pilots of rapidly changing weather conditions.

The report also recommended that the oil and gas industry adopt aircraft operation guidelines developed by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers that have more stringent safety requirements than Federal Aviation Administration rules.

Those guidelines recommend that pilots and passengers complete helicopter underwater escape training and wear life jackets during all flights over water. 

They also recommend that flotation gear be installed on helicopters that will automatically inflate when the vehicle hits water, and that such flotation gear must be capable of keeping the helicopter on the water’s surface. 

The guidelines also recommend that companies provide locator beams for pilots, passengers and life rafts, and that the rafts be mounted on the outside of the helicopters. 

The study said that the 128 fatalities in the study period represents an average 16 deaths per year, and estimated that the fatality rate was seven times higher than for all U.S. workers, 27.1 deaths per 100,000 offshore workers versus 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers nationwide. 

Workers directly employed in the oil and gas extraction industry accounted for 87, or two-thirds, of the deaths. 

Of those workers, 43 worked for well-servicing companies, 26 for drilling contractors, and 18 for oil and gas operators. 

The remainder of the deaths involved employees in another industry, including 24 in transportation and warehousing, 10 in construction, and eight in other industries. 

The researchers obtained their fatality data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Industries. 

An earlier report found that mechanical failures and bad weather were the most common reasons for helicopter crashes involving offshore operations in the Gulf between 1983 and 2009. 

That study found that aircraft flotation devices either failed to deploy or malfunctioned in 20 percent of nonfatal crashes. 

A separate study of Canadian civilian helicopter crashes into water found that drowning was the primary cause of death, and that use of life jackets by pilots and passengers was inconsistent.

Visa on Arrival in Bali

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Not a safety related post today - but for anyone travelling into Bali - some good advice.

Get online before flying-off to Bali and book yourself a "VIP" visa on arrival service.

I did so for my current family holiday and it was worth every penny of the US$25 per person charged.

We were met by a man with a sign (showing my name) inside the airport just at the start of the line for paying for visa on arrival.

There were already about 200+ people in the line from preceding flights but we got our visa's in our passport within 5-minutes.

We were then escorted through immigration counter to the baggage hall, without queuing-up, and while waiting for our bags, the arrival immigration details were finalized - so we were ready to go as soon as the bags came off the trolley.

Our chaperone then escorted us through customs clearance and assisted to find our vehicle for the drive to the hotel.

The whole process from getting off the plane to exiting the airport was over within 20 minutes.  And we were sipping our first cocktail in the hotel within an hour of landing.

The visa on arrival costs USD $25 and the VIP service adds US$25 to the cost.

But it saved at least 2-3 hours of airport time.

It's a fabulous service if your holiday time is precisous and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Simple Steps to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise is the number one disability in the World; which is sad since it is so easily prevented.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when sounds which are greater than 85-decibels (dB) damage the delicate, sensitive structures within the human ear.

Common causes of NIHL result from exposure to noise from chainsaws, hammer-drills, bull-dozers, powered lawn-mowers, motorbikes, diesel trucks, and factory machinery.

The Keys to preventing NIHL include:

+   Remain aware of noise as a hazard and take measures to protect yourself from high noise (above 85 dB);

+   If possible, remove or relocate noisy equipment from the working zone;

+   Limit the period of exposure to noise above 85 dB; and

+   If you must work in a noisy environment, always wear appropriate hearing protective devices, including earplugs, ear-muffs or noise-cancelling head-phones.


Does the Brace Position Work?

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 14, 2013

You've all seen the video when you fly whereby you're advised to adopt the brace position if your  aircraft is required to make an emergency landing.

But is it the best thing to do in an emergency?

There are certainly numerous conspiracy theories regarding the purpose of the procedure.

Some have suggested that it is only useful for preserving passengers’ teeth for dental records, allowing for easier identification after a crash.

Another is that the position actually increases that chance of death, by breaking your neck, and is subsequently recommended by airlines to reduce medical insurance costs.

The idea being that ongoing compensation payments may cost more than a single payment to the relatives of a deceased passenger.

In reality, however, the brace position is globally recognized as an appropriate safety technique for passengers.

In Britain, the brace position was modified in 1993 following research into cabin safety by the University of Nottingham after the Kegworth crash in 1989.

The Kegworth disaster on January 8, 1989 resulted in the deaths of 47 of the 126 passengers on board.

The other 74 passengers were seriously injured.

The absence of fatalities on board the U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River, has been partly attributed to passengers adopting the position.

The Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" used crash test dummies and sensors to prove that the brace position would significantly improve your chances of avoiding serious injury during a plane crash.

To adopt the brace position, you should place your feet and knees together with your feet firmly on the floor.

Feet should be flat and further back than the knees. In the event of an impact, this position helps prevent your legs being broken against the base of the seat in front.

You should try to bend as far forward as possible.

If it's in reach, you should rest your head against the seat in front, with hands placed on the back of your head.

Hands should be placed on top of one another.

Do not interlock your fingers interlocked.

Elbows should be tucked in to your sides.

The head should be as far below the top of the seats as possible.

This position prevents flailing of the arms, minimizes the risk of broken fingers and protects your head from flying debris.

The position varies slightly in the US. Rather than placing hands on the back of the head, passengers are advised to place them on top of the seat in front, or to hold their ankles.


National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Australian state and territory governments are seeking your feedback on the draft National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern. A copy of the draft code is available here.

The consultation closes on 1 March 2013.

Many chemicals that are in use every day have been used by terrorists to make homemade explosives.

Business and Australian governments need to work together to detect and prevent the use of chemicals for terrorist purposes and ensure a safer Australia.

The Australian and state and territory governments have decided to pursue a voluntary code of practice for businesses that manage, handle or use products containing 11 chemicals that are precursors to homemade explosives.

Your feedback will shape the final version of the code and ensure that it can be easily understood and effectively used by businesses.

Once completed, you can submit your feedback to: Mark Whitechurch, Chemical Security, Attorney-General’s Department, 3-5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600, Australia.

Lead Contamination Risk Near US Airports

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 18, 2013

The health effects of lead in petrol were known as early as the 1920s, but it took half a century before the US EPA moved to eliminate it in America.

Although the toxic metal lead is now banned from all petrol used in cars; you might be surprised to hear that it is still available for use in small private piston engine aircraft. 

The jet fuel used in commercial passenger planes, however, does not contain lead.

But about three-quarters of small private planes in the USA are still using leaded "Avgas".

And this Avgas is now the main source of lead emissions in America - even though  a lead-free alternative called "Mogas" is available for most piston engine aircraft,

So even though leaded Avgas emits only a small fraction of the lead once emitted by cars, it disproportionately affects people living near airports.

The US EPA estimates there are 16 million people living within one kilometer of airports where Avgas is available, and 3 million children attend schools in the same radius.

And Duke University researchers have shown that children who live near airports have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

But in the absence of regulatory pressure, there just isn't enough incentive to change this unfortunate situation.

So just three per cent of American airports supply lead-free Mogas as an alternative to leaded Avgas.

When leaded Avgas is eventually replaced, it will be another small step in the long road to eliminate lead contamination.

Flatulence when flying

Graham Marshall - Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seeing as I'm about to take the longest commercially-available air flight later this week - from Sydney (Australia) to Dallas (USA) - my eye was caught by an article in the paper today about research undertaken by Danish gastroenterologist Jacob Rosenberg.

According to the study by Dr Jacob published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the best advice for frequent flyers is "just let go" if you need to break wind when flying.

The study confirms anecdotal evidence that flying may increase the need to fart; finding that the decrease in cabin air pressure makes the gut produce additional gas.

The study also confirmed what all blokes already knew - women's farts smell worse than men's - and that the average person farts at least 10 times each day!

The study concluded with practical advice to airlines - to embed activated charcoal in the seat cushion of each seat, since charcoal will neutalize any adverse odour.  Not a bad idea on a 15-hour flight to Denver!

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