Health News of Thursday, 15 November 2012

Source: Agyenim –Boateng Ernest

“Prevention Of Workplace Hazards”

Agyenim –Boateng Ernest


So many hazardous situations go unattended to and staff show indifference (lack of concern) resulting in disabilities, grief and even death.

Had workers been a little careful and alert, so many disabilities and death occurring at work places would have been prevented.

For workplace hazards to be prevented or controlled; human beings, the environment and their properties should be in a sort of equilibrium, since they are inseparable, with human beings having dominion over the others as ordained by our creator GOD (Genesis chp.1 vs. 26 -28). But sadly to say human beings are losing control of their environment and the properties there in.
Workplace hazard is/are conditions in the workplace that has the potential to
1. Endanger human beings who are directly involved or innocent people. egg. Cigarette smoking.

2. Destroy properties at the place or other people’s property or
3. Impact negativity on the environment with its accompanying immediate effect or in future date as in illegal mining “galamsey” operations or plastic containers and polythane rubber menace.
It could be described as
? -Safety hazard - That leads to direct visible injury e.g. Motor bike rider failing to use safety helmet.
? -Health hazard - leading to illness or disease either immediately or remote i.e. at a future time. As happens in employees in quarry dust, cotton and jute factories.
? -Occupational hazards - illnesses or danger occurring because of workplace exposure, or due to a particular job one is engaged in. It can affect every organ or system in the body. Example
Health workers are exposed to infections and footballers are prone to tendon and ligament tear and fractures.
Journalists are exposed to brutalities and assaults in the course of their duties
Palm wine tapers and brewery workers are exposed to alcohol and its complication.
Similarly, Zoo attendants are exposed to zoonotic diseases and Welders prone to traumatic eye injury, eg. Corneal abrasion , corneal ulceration. Etc.
Musicians, radio presenters and commentators are exposed to noise pollution leading to noise induced deafness, as well as Pharygngitis, sore throat, Ca of the throat.etc
To overcome the hazards one should have adequate knowledge of potential dangers at the workplace; ensure that they are protected e.g. Wearing of protective clothing against biological agents and the effect of the weather or environment and take measures to ensure safe environment and properties.
The environment must be free of hazards or at its barest minimum. Lighting system must be sufficiently good, Water, Air, Land and noise must be controlled for the betterment of humanity.
enclosed places should not be overcrowded; however means of escape in case of stampede or fire outbreak must also be created.
Concerning the properties, safety items should be in safe place handled by qualified persons. Fume from vehicle engines/exhaust pipes must be looked at. E.g. Gas emission from cars, fridges etc.
The objectives of hazards prevention includes
The identification of hazards associated with their work; classification of the various types of hazards, so as to effect suitable control measures, to eliminate preventable hazards from our workplaces/facilities and last but not least, to prevent future lawsuit against their facility or establishments.

Identification of workplace hazards is the first step in preventing its occurrence, therefore one must -:
• Frequently and regularly inspect the equipment /tools, logistics use, environment etc.
• Listen to reports from workers to management or their unit in-charges and act promptly.
• Review accidents statistics at the workplace periodically.
• Review fire outbreaks and workmen’s compensation statistics at the area.
• Have regular interaction with staff to know their personal, social and psychological problems.
• Near misses also prompt authorities of impending dangers and it must not be taken lightly.
• Be conversant with standard and guidelines for e.g. vehicular speed limit, noise, alcohol intake etc.
• Develop checklist/tools for workplace hazard.

In this, the victims sustain physical injury or accident at the workplace
From physical appliances, equipment or items such as
-- Vehicles (Road or Motor traffic accident)
— Collapse building, slippery floor, faulty chairs , falling or injury from ceiling fans etc
— Electro-magnetic waves e.g. Radiation from X-ray & cell phone which is under study by experts. (in this the effect is manifested at a future time )
— Extreme temperatures e.g. equipment like gas cooker, vehicle water tank, burns from heated electric iron etc.
— Noise or vibration
— Naked fire (fire outbreaks) e.g. Using Gas stove
— Exposed needles prick
— Collapsed pit or hole on illegal miners “galamsey” operators etc. etc.


This refers to the hazards or accident involving biological agents or exposure to it.
It forms part of occupational hazard to many workers in the country. e.g.
• health workers are exposed to infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B & C tainted blood, TB organism, Flu (Coryza, common cold)
• Commercial sex workers to STI’s and physical assault.
• Snake bites to farmers
• Psittacosis- a zoonosis to zoo attendants
? Avian flu to poultry farmers

This involves exposure to chemical agents which may be accidental or due to diabolical or suicidal intent e.g.
— Inhalation, ingestion, absorption of chemicals, through the nose, eye, mouth, skin etc.
— Fume from vehicles and some factories; smoke from cigarette smokers.
— Organophosphorous poisoning as happens inadvertently in fruits and vegetables farmers.
— Gas and petro-chemical pollution of waters, land and employees.
— Medical gases such as nitrous oxide, O² cylinders and gas cylinders must be handled with care
— Chemical burns as happens in some factories and hair salons.
— Accident e.g. Children ingesting large quantities of kerosene, alcohol (esp. Akpeteshie), smoke, unlabelled drugs etc.
— Pouring of acids/ alkaline (caustic soda, battery fluid etc.) on others during a fight as happens in local soap makers, fitting & hairdressers shops.
Mechanical and electrical hazards are injuries resulting from
a. Machinery, equipment,
b. Electrical gadgets or equipment electric waves shock,
c. Body mechanism (bad posture) Positioning or how the body holds itself when standing, sitting, walking, lifting, sleeping etc (improper techniques use especially in lifting objects.)
– A fall of a worker on the same or flat level or from height.
– Exposure to electric wires or electric shock.
– Dangerous parts of machinery, equipment etc. which are not guarded, posing danger to customers.
– Dangerous types of equipment or machines e.g. Beds used by aggressive patients or patients tossing about in bed or a child.
– Sterilizing equipment such as autoclave.
– Habit formation especially bad posture during driving, sitting, lifting, standing etc.


In this type of hazard the social and mental problems of the worker is at play thus distracting him/her from the efficient performance of his/her duty and subsequently exposing ones clients or customers to the risk of injury; or transferred aggression to ones clients or colleagues.
It arises from the mind and its processes and the staff suffers from transient emotional derangement, though there is no specific mental reaction/disorder. It could lead to mental breakdown.
Psychological hazards occur during
a. Physical problems E.g. Marriage (marital) problem, Bereavement, Sickness in the family or
Chronic illness in the employee himself
b. Emotional Problems such as Poor interpersonal relationships amongst or between employees in the same group, Poor working relationships between management or supervisors and employees.
c. Financial Problems
“Pocketitis” could lead to uneasiness which will in turn lead to physical and emotional problems.
d. Mental Fatigue
Improper work organization for the employee causes rush thus leading to stress and eventually accident. Noise, lack of sleep and rest can also lead to accident, CVA, premature aging etc.
Prolonged exposure to the following could be disastrous
? Quarry dust ? silicosis the oldest occupational Lung disease known to man.
? Cotton /jute particles ? Byssiniosis-chronic asthma-like disease.
? Asbestos fibers ? Asbestosis-pneumonia-like disease.
? Psittacosis- is a zoonosis caused by bacterium of Chlamydia family. It occurs in some bird species forming occupational hazards of zoological garden workers.
? Chemical ? Body organ diseases
E.g. Alcohol --- Liver cirrhosis
Smoke --- Eye, lungs, throat etc problem
Noise ? Noise induced deafness, RTA
Stress ? home /occupational accident, RTA, CVA
? Improper techniques, e.g. in lifting and sitting ? Low backache, slipped disc (spine) etc.
? Workaholism? stress, Home /occupational accident, RTA, Psychological breakdown, CVA
Control of workplace hazards dwells on 3 pillars namely-
e.g. - Disability Law/walkway
- Permissible level of noise using (SLM) Sound Level Metre (50-60 dB i.e. decibels normal range) Any noise level from 90 dB and above emanating from factories, corn mills, siren, chain saw operations, faulty exhaust pipes of vehicles, aeroplane engine etc for even a short period has the potential to damage the Ear.
April 15th each year is National Noise Awareness Day and Environmental Protection Agency who is mandated to prescribe standard and guideline in respect to water; air, land and noise pollution have to work effectively to prevent hazards in the environment.

- Permissible alcohol limit for drivers using (Alco sensor – Normal range 0.08%)
- Prohibition of vehicle speed limit. (50 mph within town, and 80-150 on highways)
- Fire extinguishers in vehicles & institutions must be enforced and holders taught how to use them.
- Annual leave for workers
- Chain saw operation, illegal mining operations and the like must be handled with all the seriousness it deserves.
- Formation of Institution for occupational safety& health to research and educate employers and employees on safety and health at the workplace.
- Institutionalization of emergency/disaster relief management at District, Regional and National levels.
e.g. - That ensures proper hazard management
- Various workers’ unions affiliated to TUC must be up and doing to ensure healthy and safety environment at all levels; come out with educational programmes on occupational health and safety and procedure to follow for the necessary compensation when affected.
- The Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare as well as TUC have the responsibility to negotiate a better salary and safe environment for the workers in the civil and public service nationwide, which will reduce the financial burden and for that matter the psychological problems of the workers.
- Facilities or institutions should have facility maintenance plan clearly spelt out, read and followed by all.
- Religious activities should be conducted in such a manner that noise pollution is absent or carried out in noise proofed premises.
- Hazard checklist must be available at every institution
- Two to four or more exit points which are well labeled at every public building including stadia.
- Disability walkway or access at every public building (hospitals, Banks, Hotels, Parliament house, school hostels etc.)
e.g. - Units should assess and determine the level of exposure. e.g.
- Use of protective materials e.g. Use of apron by midwife /nurses, safety helmet by miners and motor bike riders,
- Use of gloves by Lab technician and also during examination, Use of goggles/shields by welders, Safety shoes and boots
To elaborate more on the three pillars of hazards control, one must identify the hazards by
assessing and determining the level of exposure using the existing Laws and by-laws, and use checklist regularly to be on track.
Local Government Act of 1993 (Act 462) empowers the District Assemblies to control and deal with noise pollution in their respective areas and therefore individuals must work within the permissible levels prescribed as in vehicle speed limit, noise, alcohol intake etc
Prioritize hazards into those needing immediate attention and those that “can wait”.
And control hazards generally by equipping one’s self with prior knowledge of different hazards at your place of work.
Eliminate hazards by instituting all preventive measures especially Gas and Fuel dumps, substitution of obsolete equipment with safer products.
Ensure good ventilation to reduce exposure as a result of dilution of the circulating air of workplace redesigning of workplace with safety and health in mind.
- Use of protective equipment e.g. Fire extinguishers, goggles, gloves, aprons, facemask, ear muffs & plugs to prevent excessive noise etc. must be available all the time
- Personal protection e.g. Proper hand washing; not spitting around etc.
- Carefulness and alertness whilst working, no unnecessary charting, receiving phone call especially when operating machinery (driving etc.).

- Proper use and maintenance of equipment, building etc
E.g. Welders wearing goggles/shields to prevent traumatic conjunctivitis and corneal abrasion/ulceration
- Measure to avoid slippery floor, faulty chairs, fire outbreaks etc.
- Medical gases (nitrous oxide, O2 and Gas cylinders) must be well placed or guarded to prevent injury or explosion to clients.
- Clinical staff must be mindful of procedures which are test cases e.g. leaving of gauze swabs or forceps in operation sites and tourniquet left untied.
- Safety helmet by miners & bike riders
- Availability of fire extinguishers
- Disability walkway or access at every public institution

- Standard universal precaution must be observed e.g. Proper hand washing Use antiseptic of alcohol hand rub/gel, Protective clothing like gloves, goggles by welders, prevents cross infection, re-infection etc.
- Carefulness e.g. to prevent used needle prick etc.


- Proper storage of medicines and hazardous chemicals.
- Proper labeling of containers.
- Chemicals used in galamsey operations have immediate or long term effect on human beings, the environment, water source and degradation of the land.
- Clinicians must ask about clients sensitivity to drugs such as penicillin, co-trimoxazole etc.
- Proper use and maintenance of equipment and materials.
- Use of personal protective clothing.
- No smoking signs at vantage points.
- Prevention of ships from dislodging toxic waste in our territorial waters
• Prevention of naked wires
• Guarding of dangerous parts of machinery, equipment, beds used by patients especially children, restless patients and some psychiatric patients.
• Prompt repair of faulty machines and electrical gadgets.
• Being observant – to avert fire outbreaks, burns, electric shock, electrocution etc.

— Rapport at work place – between management and staff, amongst staff.
— Counseling by senior staff and management or supervisors
— Measures to ease financial worries of members of staff especially hard working ones
— Work must be properly organized to avoid rush which could lead to stress on the employees and subsequently accident.
— Introduction of stress reliever’s e.g. Annual leave, farmers and teachers award; end of year parties, motivation etc.
— Organization of workshops on financial management, time management, occupational hazards
In conclusion, Ghana Jubilee field is a New Petro-Chemical industry altogether and I
join Jasmine Arku in asking ?MANAGING OIL AND GAS INJURIES ARE WE
PREPARED? ?as Ghanaians. Question posed by Jasmine Arku in her article featured in
The Daily Graphic issue ? 108506 of April 11, 2011
The nation stands to lose in terms of resources i.e. Men, Materials and Minutes, e.g.
1. Loss of precious hours (result in time off duty) which affect the individual, family and the state.
2. Permanent disability e.g. Exposure to dust, chemicals, RTA etc causes sadness, school drop-out, and financial hardship especially if the victim is the bread winner.
3. Instant death as in RTA’s, fire outbreak, falls from height, drowning, galamsey operations where human beings are trapped in pits or muddy rivers etc.
4. The lost of three prominent urologist from Korle -Bu Teaching Hospital in a tragic accident near Bunso junction is still fresh on our minds. A great loss to the nation.
Work place hazards had and continue to have implications on workers, though the workmen’s compensation Act (Act 174 of 1963) stipulates that workers are entitled to compensation for injury at the workplace; however, no matter the percentage of workman’s compensation benefited; grief, disability and death cannot be equal with.