Hurricane Aftermath Returning to Work Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Industrial Hygiene

Being that it is an operation that is being conducted in an industrial area, and in an industry that dealt with compressed gas, it is critical that all the safety measures are taken into account in a categorical and safe manner in the bid to re-enter the after the terrible hurricane. For instance there are various experts who are present and I would recommend that their individual expertise be put to use in the recovery process. First, the entire employees' body must be informed of the extent of the damage and the seriousness of the problem at hand and instructed not to venture into any area within the firm without the clearance and subsequent communication through a central communications office that they have to be informed of. I would also suggest to the Incident Commander to have a formal written process for the recovery of the firm. This will help in the accurate and safe re-entry into the firm without exposure to danger of the people involved in the recovery as well as the employees later on. This schedule will help him ensure that there is coordination between the specialists that are at site to help in the safe re-entry and avoid skipping of steps that may endanger lives later on.

Bearing that the firm deals in the distribution of compressed gas, one of the most obvious dangers that at hand is the possibilities of explosions from the compressed gas cylinders. This is most likely danger as the cylinders were scattered allover the compound during the flooding. In light of this, there is need to keep off the general public so as to reduce the likelihood of fires occurring. The other most likely danger is the exposure of the general public and the recovery team in particular to the Hydrogen Sulfide gas which has the rotten egg smell. This is a highly toxic gas as well as flammable gas. The fact that Hydrogen Sulfide is heavier than air, it tends to stay longer within a poorly ventilated room as it displaces the air. The other dangerous aspect of it is that though it is highly pungent, the sense of smell quickly loses the capability to sense it and hence exposing the potential victims to intoxication especially of the nervous system yet unaware of its presence, this is very dangerous to my team (Osha Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005). The other danger is the presence of the confirmed leakage of chlorine gas. The danger with this gas is that it combines with almost all elements. It is an irritant to the mucous membrane as well as the lungs and has the capacity to cause cancer. I also noted that chlorinated liquids have the ability to burn the skin and even fabrics and bearing the situation at hand with water all over, the presence of chlorine gas at the site is of grave health concern. The saturation in the region is also of significant industrial health concern since as little as 1000 ppm can prove fatal to the recovery team after just a few breaths (Biophica Inc., 2011). The last though not least of the industrial concern is the integrity of the buildings at the site that must be accessed by the team as they undergo the verification of the sources of the leaking gas. After the hurricane, there is a possibility that the physical structure was highly compromised making it dangerous for the recovery team.

Organizing such a recovery is not easy but with the team available, it is going to be a task worth the challenge. First I would use the Safety Supervisor (programs and training) to train the entire team on the procedures and the steps that are going to be taken in the recovery process so as to ensure a danger free recovery work. There is going to be enough support back up plans like the emergency and medical service available. He will also be in charge of the safety recovery procedure during the application of the process of recovery.

Then the two technicians (versed in IH and environmental sample collection and testing) will come in handy in identifying and collecting samples from the site to verify the contents and the concentration. The specialists in Industrial Health will be the ones to advice on the safety of accessing each part of the firm to carry out the recovery. They will also work closely with the safety supervisor in ensuring that the zones that are still dangerous to access maybe due to high concentration of the gases are kept free of any recovery workers. These two technicians will also, upon identifying the chemical composition of the gasses, advice the safety supervisor on the most efficient and safest means of carrying out the recovery procedure. They will also help in neutralizing any dangerous fumes that may be emanating from the ruins like the already identified chlorine gas and hydrogen fluoride.

The Environmental Manager (physical plant, wastes and regulatory issues) will also come in handy in advising the team on the safest ways of disposing the effluent from the ruins in a manner that does not jeopardize the lives of other people out there and the ecosystem including the marine life. There is also need for the environmental manager to actively get involved with the technicians in ensuring that the gases are contained as much as possible and those that cannot be contained are released into the atmosphere in the safest mode possible.

In assigning duties to the team and organizing them, it would also be very important to ensure that the support staff follows the stipulated procedures and not to do anything on their own volition. This is to ensure that everybody within the recovery site is safe and the recovery does not lead to more casualties. This adherence to the rules is very important and crucial bearing that the type of debris we are dealing with here is of both tangible and intangible nature.

The recovery team will need personal protective equipment (PPE) while doing the recovery work as well as the staff after the recovery. The PPE can be defined as 'All equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety' (Healthy Working Lives, 2010).

The PPE that will be required in this recovery process are, first of all respirators. This is based on the fact that we are dealing with a site that has a mixture of gases, some of which (like chlorine) are dangerous to the respiratory system hence each person that will be involved in the recovery process must of necessity have the respirators. Each person must also have hard hats since the debris could be loosely hanging due to weakening from the strong winds and floods and these hard hats must be accompanied by the face shield to cushion against any flying pieces of debris. Hard boots are also a requirement here so as to protect the team from contamination or any chemical exposures that may be at the site. Goggles are also a requirement here as they tightly fit against the eyes hence protecting eyes from dirt, dust and even the fumes that is a major concern at out recovery scene. There will also be need to have high visibility clothing since the electricity supply has to be shut down till the reconstruction is complete hence these clothing will help in identifying colleagues and avoid accidents. There will be need to have each person provided with head mounted flashlights so as to improve their visibility within the dark areas of the site. Ideally, though expensive, the recovery workers should have the Hazmat suits since they cover the entire body and are formatted to be used in such conditions as the one we are handling here (Santa Clara County Fire Department, 2011). However, with the above equipments combined with disposable coveralls it should be safe enough to handle this scene.

There are a number of testing equipment that will be required for the team in the efforts to keep the site safe for the team and those who will use it after the recovery. The Flue analyzer kit will come in handy to assist in the detection of the various temperatures of the different parts of the torn down firm, hence enabling entry when it is only safe to do so. There is also need to have carbon monoxide detector in such an environment since the gas is odorless and in such an environment where it is a mixture of gases, testing for carbon monoxide is paramount. The team must also have the gas leak detectors so that they can analyze all the pipes and tanks and see where the gas could be leaking and take the appropriate steps (Trade Counter Direct, 2011).

The information that I would require from the team members will be in…

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