The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Well done to Santos

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 14, 2014

The Greenies reaction to the news of aquifer contamination - which actually occurred several years ago - at a location recently purchased by Santos in NSW shows how these people try to create a climate of fear around low-risk and low-impact events.

In response to the leak, NSW Labor put out a press release stating that: “The O’Farrell Government’s Memorandum of Understanding with Santos to fast track the approval process for Coal Seam Gas mining in the Pilliga forest should be torn up in light of revelations of contamination of the water aquifer.”

And the Greens exclaimed that this event meant it was "game over for coal seam gas”.

Which is, of course, their ultimate aim to achieve.

Many environmental groups have also leapt on the bandwagon to justify their opposition to Coal Seam Gas (CSG).

But what actually happened - and more importantly - what is the risk?

Several years ago a retaining dam was constructed in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, to hold produced water extracted from wells drilled in the search for CSG.

The dam was not lined properly and it leaked.

The leaking water then entered an aquifer.

According to the NSW EPA, the contaminated aquifer - being inside the Pilliga forest - was not used for livestock, crop irrigation or human consumption.

But the leaking water contained NORM - Naturally-occurring Radioactive Materials - and other naturally-occurring minerals found in bedrock through which the drill-string passed (e.g., lead, arsenic and barium).

Fast forward to a couple of years ago - when Santos purchased the legacy asset from the original owners.

In looking over the asset as part of its due-diligence process (a good way to identify environmental issues so they can be managed properly), Santos themselves discovered the problem with the dam.

You'll recall that the dam was constructed by the prior owner of the operation before Santos acquired it.

Being a good corporate citizen, however, Santos then reported the leaking dam to the EPA.

For whatever legal reason, the NSW EPA fined Santos $1,500 because the dam leak (which occurred prior to Santos' ownership) had contaminated the aquifer.

Maybe fair enough I guess.

But the Greenies jumped on the story and the minor fine to beef-up the talk and transform the issue of NORM into "Uranium" poisoning in drinking water and lead, arsenic, and barium toxicity.

The Greenies know that "Uranium" holds a special place of fear in the human psyche due to its association atomic bombs.

So they'll stoop to any level of fear-mongering in their desperate attempt to convince the Australian population that Santos and the search for CSG is evil.

The reality, in this case, is that a small and relatively low consequence spill, with absolutely low-risk consequence to animal or public health should not be allowed to stand in the way of a billion-dollar industry that creates tens of thousands of jobs for Australians.

And Santos should be congratulated for its environmental practices; firstly discovering the leak, secondly reporting it to the EPA, and finally, in remediating it!

Well done Santos!

Temperature Regulations in the UK

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the UK, the Workplace Regulations (Health, Safety and Welfare, 1992) outline particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment, including for temperature.

Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

"During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable."

The application Regulation 7, however, depends on the type of workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, or a warehouse.

The associated Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) goes on to explain:

"The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable.

'Workroom' means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves hard physical effort.  Under such circumstances, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.

These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity."
If the temperature in a workroom is uncomfortably high because of hot processes, the design of the building, or other environmental factors, then all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:

+   Insulating hot plant, process equipment  or pipes;

+   Providing air-cooling plant;

+   Shading windows; 

+   Moving workstations away from places subject to radiant heat; and/or

+   Application of local cooling using air-conditioning.

In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.

Where, despite the provision of those methods, temperatures are still not reasonable, suitable protective clothing, roster, and rest facilities should be provided.

Typical examples of suitable protective clothing would be ice vests, or air/water fed suits.

The effectiveness of these PPE systems may be limited if used for extended periods of time with inadequate rest breaks.

Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.
HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace, as: 'An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.'

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Monday, August 06, 2012

Here at the Risk Tool Box, we know that noise-induced hearing loss is 100 per cent preventable.

Yet industrial-deafness accounts for nearly 5 per cent of workplace compensation claims.

Things you should know:

1. Any extended exposure to noise levels above 85 dBA can permanently damage your hearing;

2. Hearing loss is permanent;

3. If you have ringing in your hears after attending a concert, it is an indication that hearing damage has occurred;

4. Personal music players such as ipods or walkmans can damage your hearing if not used correctly;

5. As a rule, your music player is OK if you can carry on with a normal conversation (whilst listening to music through the headphones).

Things you can do at work:

1.  Map areas of high-noise in the workplace and develop a noise management plan for "at-risk" areas;

2.  Aim to reduce noise at its source by improving design, isolating noisy equipment or using acoustic shielding;

3.  Always ensure everyone is wearing appropriate hearing protection in "at-risk" high-noise areas;

4.  Take the time to insert your own earplugs properly.

Use of Angle Grinders on Propane Tanks

Graham Marshall - Friday, July 06, 2012

A worthy nomination for a Darwin Award here when a workman in the UK was seriously injured whilst removing the top of a full propane gas tank with an angle-grinder!  We're not sure why anyone would actually want to do this?

In a prosecution by the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE), Southampton magistrates heard that the 29-year-old worker suffered serious burns to his arm and body after propane caught fire.  Now there is a surprise!

The employee was lucky not to have been killed.  Yes, indeed.

Jamie Jewell, a Company Director of a company known as Suffix Pre-Cast, who was "supervising" the workman admitted breaching the UKs Health and Safety at Work Act.  He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,451.

The UK HSE prosecution alleged that Jewell did not know enough about the hazards of handling propane gas to carry out the work competently or supervise others.

The incident, which involved a full tank of propane gas, occurred at Jewell’s Calmore home on September 2nd  2011.

"Nuclear" Energy Foods May Raise Police Suspicions

Graham Marshall - Sunday, July 01, 2012

A US based confectionary company is distributing energy powders (confectionary products) marked with authentic "radiation hazard" trefoils.

Whilst this may not be illegal, be aware that this has the potential to raise suspicion of the police, customs and boarder security over a potential radiation hazard/incident.

This is especially the case in the UK in light of the forthcoming Olympic events in London.

Our advice is to carefully consider your purchasing of these energy products - particularly if you're wanting to get on a plane and travel anywhere without an internal investigation of certain delicate body cavities!

Danger of Heat Waves

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 03, 2012

As we enter February in Australia, with the mercury rising to its summer high point; it is worth considering how high ambient temperature is probably the most under-rated natural hazard in both Australia and the USA.

Unlike "active" natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, tornados and lightning storms, heat-waves are seen as simply "passive" weather.

But research (Coates, 1996; and Andrews, 1994) clearly shows that heat waves kill more people than any other natural hazard experienced in Australia.

In the period from 1803 (when Australian records began) to 1992, at least 4287 people died as a direct result of heat waves.

That figure is almost twice the number of deaths attributed to either cyclones or floods over the same time period.

In the USA, heat waves are the second ranked cause of deaths resulting from a natural hazard, killing more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning and floods combined.

The impact of heat waves extends further than just death rates. High temperatures are also associated with the following problems:

· Increased hospital admissions relating to heat stress, dehydration, or as a result of heat exacerbating existing conditions;

· Increased rates of certain crimes particularly those related to aggressive behaviour such as homicide;

· Increased number of work-related accidents and reduced work productivity; and

· Decreased sports performance.

Summer heat waves can also cause significant economic losses through livestock/crop losses and damage to roads, railways, bridges, power reticulation infrastructure and electrical equipment.

For people, the high ambient temperatures associated with heat waves make us feel uncomfortable as our bodies struggle to keep our inner body temperature close to 37ºC.

The body responds to increasing heat stress progressively through three stages:

1.  Heat cramps - muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe stage they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
2.  Heat exhaustion - typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing a decrease of flow to the vital organs. This results in mild shock with symptoms of cold, clammy and pale skin, together with fainting and vomiting. If not treated the victim may suffer heat stroke.
3.  Heat stroke - is life threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature may exceed 40.6ºC potentially causing brain damage and death if the body is not cooled quickly.

As with the management of any hazard, the use of a range of simple controls measures can ensure people's safety in hot conditions. 

Try these tips next time you're hot:

Eliminate hard physical activity during periods of high temperatures;

Substitute the location of work - move indoors or change the time of the activity to a cooler part of the day;

Engineer the location  to control heat using artificial shade, ventilation or air conditioning systems; 

Administration - ensure to drink plenty of water and pace work according to the physical demands and temperature; and

PPE - be sun smart with long pants and long-sleaved shirt, wide brimmed hat and sub-bloc.



Heat Stress Increases in Spring-Time

Graham Marshall - Thursday, September 01, 2011
The 1st day of September marks the start of spring down here in the southern hemisphere.

We also open the highest risk time period for exposure to the harmful UV radiation from sunlight.
The risk of exposure to the skin cancer-causing UV increases across Australia, NZ and South Africa
 at this time of year.

Keep your cool as the temperature rises this spring and summer.

Reducing the skin cancer risk is pretty straight forward using a range of positive sun-smart behaviours that everyone can get right.

If it's hot and sunny where you're working or playing outside today, positive sun smart behaviours include the following actions:

  • Cover-up with long a sleeve shirt and long pants and a wide-brimmed hat;
  • Use SPF 30 sun-block on exposed parts of the body;
  • Wear sun-glasses;
  • If possible, avoid working or playing outdoors in the hottest part of the day;
  • Drink enough water for hydration purposes; and
  • Take regular rest-breaks in a shady area.

Dangers of Welding on Tanks Highlighted

Graham Marshall - Friday, May 27, 2011
The dangers of attempting to oxy-cut or hot-weld on pre-used fuel drums and tanks has again been highlighted by an explosion at Narrawallee in the New South Wales (Australia).

The explosion of a 44-gallon drum in a garage has left a 35-year-old work-man in a critical condition with a fractured skull, severe facial and head wounds and extreme blood loss.

Local Police say the man was using his oxy-welder on a the drum when the explosion occurred.

The man was struck by the lid of the drum as it exploded.
Highlighting the energy involved in the explosion, the lid was found in the driveway of a house three doors down the street.

The workman was airlifted to Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital for specialist treatment last night.

UK HSE Published Interim Report on Japanese Nuclear Disaster

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An evaluation of of the nuclear disaster in Japan concludes that lessons should be learnt for nuclear power stations in the UK.

The report identifies 25 recommended areas for review to determine if further improvements to safety in the UK nuclear industry are possible.

The recommendations include:

  • Reviews of the layout of UK power plants;
  • Emergency response arrangements;
  • Dealing with prolonged power outages; and
  • The risks associated with flooding.

Mike Weightman, executive head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said:

"The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima - the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami - are not credible in the UK.

We are 1,000 miles from the nearest fault line and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards. Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different to the type at the Fukushima plant.

"But we are not complacent. No matter what the differences are, and how high the standard of design and subsequent operation of the nuclear facilities here in the UK, the quest for improvement must never stop. Seeking to learn from events, and from new knowledge, both nationally and internationally, must continue to be a fundamental feature of the safety culture of the UK nuclear industry".

The interem report published today was requested by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The interim report can be read by clicking here.
The full, more comprehensive report will be published in September.

Raditation Research

Graham Marshall - Thursday, May 12, 2011
The link to the obituary of Air Marshall Sir Geoffrey Dhenin tells of amazing bravery in applied research into the impacts of radiation in atom bomb "mushroom clouds".

In September 1953, Dhenin, the then RAF Principal Medical Officer and specialist in radiology flew a Canberra Jet Aircraft through the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion test at Woomera in South Australia. 

In 1957, he again flew a Canberra through a Hydrogen bomb mushroom cloud off Christmas Island.

On the upside of these amazing acts of courage, he survived to live to the ripe old age of 93 years!

I hope you find this story as inspirational as I did.


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