Hydraulic fracturing is commonly known as “Fracking”. This is the process whereby pressured rock (shale rock) is fractured by a pressurized liquid. Shale gas is natural gas trapped in shale rock. The technique involves mixing water with sand and chemicals, then injecting this mixture at a high pressure into a hole in the ground. This hole or wellbore is used for the extraction of gas and petroleum. The high pressure from the “fracking” creates very small cracks along the wellbore allowing trapped gas, petroleum and brine water to migrate to the well. When hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, these cracks are kept open by small grains of sand or aluminium oxide. Fracking is a very common technique for onshore well extraction of shale gas, oil and coal bed methane extraction. The Fracking procedure makes fluids flow more easily and greatly enhances productivity. Hydraulic fracturing was first used in 1947. As of 2012, 2.5 million fracking techniques have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide, a million of them in the US. Hydraulic fracturing is economically viable due to technological developments, and, it is now easier to extract gas from previous unaccessible sites. Nearly all natural gas extraction today is by hydraulic fracturing.

Of late, the shale gas industry has come under intense scrutiny. Just this month, a row has erupted in the UK in the small village of Balcombe (West Sussex) over plans to start fracking there. Hundreds of protesters blocked the oil exploration site. Protesters fear that the fracking may trigger small earthquakes and pollute the water. Similarily in the US, opponents of fracking are putting pressure on the White House to curtain fracking. Britain is looking for new resources to meet its gas needs; imports from outside the North Sea is set to surpass domestic production by 2015. Despite there being potentially vast quantities of shale gas in the north of England, last year, 50 billion cubic metres of gas was imported. The Prime Minister has supported the fracking technique, saying that it will create more jobs and make Britain more energy efficient.

The massive expansion of US shale gas has driven down energy prices and cut dependency on imports. Some of the largest natural gas reserves are in America. 30% of the US gas is obtained  today by fracking, compared to a decade ago when it was only 1%. In the EU, France and the Netherlands have banned the practice. Denmark and Poland are keen on the idea. Fracking has been used in the UK since the 1980s but was unofficially suspended in the UK between June 2011 and April 2012 after triggering small earthquakes. The ban has since been lifted and the UK will regulate fracking by focusing on laws and regulations rather than outright prohibition. Fracking did not attract attention until its use was proposed for onshore shale gas wells in 2007. And recently the protests in Balcombe, in 2013.

Environmental concerns over fracking have been raised since the 1980s and have been debated ever since. There have been conflicting conclusions from research studies. Although there is definitely proven conclusions from research, in some areas there hasn’t been very strong documented results. Differing studies have shown that carbon dioxide released due to fracking could accelerate climate change; other studies show it may well decrease it. It has been said that natural gas could replace coal and oil, cutting down on CO2 emmissions. Methane can also be released into the atmosphere from the fracking procedure. Methane is much more harmful and potent to the environment than CO2. Another gas that is flared from wells, is, hydrogen sulphide, which is an irritant and can cause problems to the central nervous system. Fracking operations in the US have been suspected of making the surrounding drinking water polluted –  in areas such as Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, among others. Because hydraulic fracturing uses a huge volume of water for the pressure, i.e between 1.2 and 3.5 million US gallons, it can take precious  reserves from residential and arid areas. Although the chemicals used in the fracking process are generally harmless, they can be carcinogenic in high concentrations. It has been reported that there has been dangerous air pollution, destroyed streams, devasted landscapes and induction of earthquakes due to fracking. A study from the US has said that workers risked developing lung disease due to the silica used in the fracking procedure. There is some concern over the levels of radiation in wastewater from sites and its potential impact on public health. As of 2012, because of these findings and others, it has been reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting comprehensive field research.

In the UK,the HSE monitors site safety and well safety of hydraulic fracturing. The two main regulations are the The Borehole Site and Operations Regulations 1995 (BSOR) and the The Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc) Regulations 1996 (DCR). The former applies to shale gas operations and is generally concerned with site health and safety. The former applies to both onshore and offshore extraction from gas wells. The HSE and the Environment agency (EA) work together to ensure that there is environmental protection and planning authorisation considerations in fracking operations. Shale gas wells must be designed, built and operated in line with these standards and operations. The Environment Agency is responsible for managing water resources, groundwater discharge activities, issuing permits for radioactive substances and for certain industrial, farming and waste management activities involving fracking.

It has been reported that areas to regule in the fracking technique should include checking the concrete casing inside the well bores. It should be strong enough to prevent groundwater contamination. This should be a legal requirement. The toxic fluid released as a by- product of fracking, should, be stored in tanks so it dosnt leak out and contaminate the surrounding air and soil. To prevent seepage of fluid, fracking should be carried out in as much isolation as possible, far away from freshwater aquifers. Also, gas companies should inject tracers so that fluid can be monitored if it ends up in residents tapwater. Aquifers and drinking-water wells should be tested before drilling and routinely to control any contamination of the ground water.

Sources   wikipedia   hse   new scientist   NRDC   reuters   ivn.us   ibtimes   bloomberg   newsmax   scientific american

Image source   bbc


Fracking for Shale Gas

Fracking Technique


Styrene is commonly used in the manufacture of polystyrene plastics and resins. Acute (short term) exposure to Styrene vapour in the workplace can cause irritation to the throat, nose and lungs. It can also cause neurological effects such as drowsiness, nausea and headaches. Chronic (long term) exposure affects the central nervous system, can cause depression, hearing loss and peripheral neuropathy. Styrene is readily absorbed and distributed throughout the body following exposure. It is considered to be a possible carcinogen.

The level of Styrene in the workplace should be no more than 100 parts per million (ppm) averaged over an 8-hour day. This is the maximum work exposure limit (WEL). Styrene is a flammable substance and eventually ends up in the air. Controlling vapour levels of Styrene depends on the manufacturing methods used, for example, the amount of resin used, whether one is using a non-atomising spray gun or not, whether gel coating is used, the curing rate, the size of the workroom etc. The greatest exposure is in industries using unsaturated polyester resins dissolved in Styrene. Dust from the fibres of glass reinforced grinding can also cause health problems; possible control measures are use of gloves and adequate local ventilation. Provided there is adequate controls in place there should be no damage to peoples’ health.

Styrene levels in the workplace should be monitored and maintained in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The external environment is regulated by the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999. European Directives regulating levels of Styrene include that which evaluates and controls the risks of substances known to be in the environment (793/93) and the Solvents Directive (99/13/EC). In October 2010, SIMPL (Safety In Manufacturing Plastics) initiative was set up and includes members from industry and HSE. Its aim is to help improve health and safety standards in the plastics industry. It provides help and support for companies involved in this industry.

Minimizing environmental exposure includes locating plants away from residential areas. Efficient capture systems should be used to disperse emissions and reduce ground-level concentrations. Styrene should not be stored next to other cargo with temperatures above 30 degrees celcius, otherwise the shelf life will be reduced and there would be an increase in the risk of polymerisation in the cargo tank. Tanks carrying or unloading Styrene polymer should not be exposed to chemicals that may react with it such as caustic soda, gasoline or oils. Minimizing exposure to human health includes providing good ventilation in the working area; this is critical to reduce inhalation. Gloves should be used and rollers with splash guards used to control droplets. Lids should always be replaced on containers. Ventilation may need to be supplemented with respiratory protective equipment. All should be done in accordance with COSH regulations. Facilities using styrene should have a response plan to include fire prevention, spill detection methods, environmental protection, emergency procedures and provisions for clean up in case of spills.


Sources   hse    epa   hpa   sepa   compositesuk   cefic

Heat stress, also known as Hyperthermia, is a raised body temperature where the body has not regulated its heat properly. It occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. Heat stress is where the body gains heat faster than it can get rid of it. The most common cause of hyperthermia is heat stroke. An adverse side effect of some drugs can also cause hyperthermia. In relation to the workplace, heat stroke is the main cause of heat stress.

Obviously during the summer months there will be elevated temperatures all around due to the season, but for some jobs the risk of heat stress poses an issue all year around. Some workplaces that pose risk include bakeries, compressed air tunnels, foundries and smelting operations. Other work environments where heat stress may occur include mines, brick-firing and ceramics plants, laundries as well as glass and rubber manufacturing plants.  As well as air temperature, other factors like work rate, humidity and clothing may also cause heat stress, either as primary cause or as a combination.

Environmental causes of heat stress include air temperature, air flow, air humidity, radiant heat (sun, kiln). Heat stress caused by the worker themselves can include hydration, clothing and medical conditions. Causes at the work place include work pace and work load. There are personal risk factors associated with developing heat stress. A person that has been acclimatized to working in hot environments routinely will be less susceptible to heat disorders than a person who just enters that environment. Also those that are physically fit can cope better with heat stress. Other stress factors include age, obesity, use of medication and state of health.

Symptoms of heat stress include nausea, dizziness, heat cramps and excessive sweating. Where there has been suspected heat stress, the worker should be moved to a cooler environment. Any restrictive clothing should be loosened. They should not be cooled down too quickly otherwise they may shiver. If the worker is alert they should be given oral fluids like juices, energizing sports drinks. Alcohol and caffeine should not be given. Continued work under conditions where there is heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition and this is caused by depletion of both water and salt from the body. Signs and symptoms are the same as mild shock and medical attention should be sought immediately. Signs of heat stroke include shallow respiration, fainting, weak pulse, sweating and nausea. Heat stroke is a more serious condition where the body’s core temperature will rise above 41 degrees celcius. This can result in loss of consciousness, brain damage and death.


Prevention of Heat Stress in the Workplace

  • The temperature should be controlled as much as possible by air conditioning and fans. There should be physical barriers placed up against radiant heat if possible
  • Automated ways of reducing the work rate should be in place where possible
  • There should be periodic breaks and cool rest areas
  • Workers should be encouraged to drink regularly, ie during and after work
  • Personal protective equipment should be in use which would protect workers in certain hot environments. But this protective equipment, whilst protecting from a hazard, may add to heat stress. A balance in the form of breaks from working in these hot environments needs to be followed.
  • In the risk assessment, employees should be identified who may be more susceptible, for example, those on medication or where there are mobility challenges
  • Employees working in a possible heat stress environment should be trained and given information on how to cope in these hot conditions. Employees health should be monitored.

If a worker is exposed to environmental conditions that could cause heat stress, the employer must mitigate against exposure. An appropriate work rest cycle must be followed and or personal protective equipment if necessary.


Sources   wikipedia   hse   work safe bc

Over this weekend Britain is basking in the hottest temperatures recorded this year so far.  Most of the UK is currently enjoying temperatures in the mid to high 20s. The forecast is for highs of up to 30C in some parts of southern England tomorrow. These temperatures are set to stay over the next week. Parts of southern England are expected to be warmer than the Carribbean. This weekends Wimbledon finals will have sweltering conditions and the Rolling Stones will find the sun unbearable in Hyde Park.

But what about those of us who have to work outdoors in the sun? Some employees jobs keep them outdoors for long periods of time, such as building site workers, farmers, and market gardeners etc. This is in contrast to people who work in offices and shops and so only really see the sun fully when they are on holiday. Exposure to ultra violet radiation can cause sunburn, blistering, and, long term exposure can lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in the UK; 50,000 cases are reported every year. UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those working outside. Workers with pale skin are most at risk form skin cancer, but those with dark skin should still take care to avoid dehydration and skin damage caused by the sun. A tan is not healthy, it is a sign that the skin has already been damaged by the sun. A number of medications can increase sensitivity to the sun, these include antibiotics, drugs for high blood pressure and anti-depressents, among others. Photosensitivity to UV radiation can also occur when in contact with dyes, coal tar and some plants.

Employers duty of care

Employers have a legal duty to protect their workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999). Managers responsible for employees working in the sun need to factor in this as part of their risk assessment for working in this environment. The following should be considered:

  • Reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • Provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading in rest areas
  • Provide free access to drinking water
  • Shading should be introduced in areas where individuals are working
  • PPE should be removed when resting to encourage heat loss
  • Workers should be educated on the symptoms of early heat stress
  • As part of  health and safety inductions there should be advice on managing how to work in ths sun

General care in the sun

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Wear full covering tightly woven fabrics
  • wear a hat with brim or flop that covers ears and back of neck
  • One needs to use a high factor sunscreen such as SPF of 15
  • The skin should be checked regularily for any unusual moles or spots
  • One should avoid even slight reddening of the skin as this is an early sign of burning
  • Do continue to take care when you go on holiday – your skin remembers every exposure
  • Don’t try to get a tan – it’s not a healthy sign. It might look good but it indicates that the skin has already been damaged. A suntan does not eliminate the longterm cancer risk which is associated with prolonged exposure to the sun; nor will it protect against premature ageing.


Sources   standard   telegraph   hse   care in the sun   work are ltd   healthy skin blog


A biocide is a substance that can destroy, render harmless, deter or  prevent the action of any harmful organism. They are highly regulated because of their possible implications on human health and the environment. They need to be compliant with directives and regulations. All aspects of biocidal products are regulated by the EC directive i.e Biocides Regulation (EU) 98/8/EC. There was a change in the regulation on 22 May 2012 called (EU) 528/2012. This will repeal and replace Directive 98/8/EC and will be applicable as of 1 September 2013. This new regulation was published on 27 June 2012, and the following are the main changes to this EU Directive that will come into affect later this year. The new EU Biocides Regulation repeals and updates the Biocidal Products Directive 98/8/EC (BPD). Its aim is to simplify and streamline existing EU requirements, without reducing the level of protection to human health and the environment.

Even though new changes will be brought in, the basic mechanisms already in place will remain as they are. The new regulation will establish a two step process of approval. The first step is the evaluation of the active substance at the Union level. The second step is the authorization of the product at the member state level. The new regulation will maintain this two step process, with the view that some biocidal products are authorized at the union level giving them direct access to the entire union market. Another objective of the regulation is to improve the functioning of the internal market. The new directive will also remedy a number of weaknesses that were identified with the current Directive 98/8/EC. Areas of the regulation to be updated include reducing animal testing by making the sharing of data compulsory and encouraging a more flexible and intelligent approach to testing. Another new addition will be a dedicated IT platform to submit applications. This will also be used for providing the public with information. This platform will also be used to record decisions. Another aspect will be on strengthening rules on data waiving ie if data doesn’t need to be submitted it will be made clear that that is do. There will be information on articles and materials tested with biocidal products, so it will be a kind of information highway and research resource. There will be an equilibrated fee structure between all member states. Before manufacturers place biocidal products on the market they will need to hold data on active substances in their product they wish to sell. There will be binding deadlines and mutual recognition dispute settlement. The European Chemicals Agency (ECA) will have an active involvement in scientific work on biocides. They will also provide technical and scientific backup to the Commission and the Member States under this new Regulation.

A little bit more on Biocides

Sources   wikipedia   hse   ec.europa

In order to control health and safety risks within an organization effectively, factors that influence peoples’ performance must be looked at. Communication is one of the key areas to address. Effective communication is necessary when changing task/job related functions like shift work, work progress abnormalities, maintenance in progress, changes to the work team etc. Maintaining a certain ‘cog in the wheel’ environment helps things run smoothly. Otherwise there may be misunderstandings, inaccurate information and missing information. Certain work situations are more likely to attribute to communication misunderstandings. These could occur between inexperienced and experienced staff, during maintenance if work continues over a shift change and during deviations from the normal mode of working. Different people may have different views of the current situation in the workplace. Overconfidence and over-familiarity can result in one classing a hazard as low or even dismissing it. Typically people underestimate risks attached to their own work. Also, people in different roles in the same workplace may judge risk differently.

Fear-inducting measures to control risk like posters and safety campaigns may not always be effective. These messages may be rejected and workers may think the message is for somebody else. A more influential and cultural change may be necessary. Negative influences to safe behavior include senior management condoning bad safety practices and this message being carried out by the chain of command, lack of training in the use of equipment, equipment that is not maintained properly and the influence of others risk taking practices. Also people copy each other, if other workers are wearing their PPE, then the person that isn’t will feel pressure to do so to conform.

Working in a shift environment and at night can pose a risk to health and safety at work. People can suffer chronic fatigue at work which can impair their judgment. Shift work, especially at night can lead to health problems including insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory problems. Tasks tend to be completed more slowly at night than during the day. In any organization that has an aspect of shift work there should be procedures for communicating between the workers. Either logs or writing things down or a group meeting before changes of shifts, so that all workers between two consecutive shifts see each other face to face for a small amount of time to assess and manage the work smoothly. This could only be for 10mins but the verbal communication that this can produce could be invaluable in mitigating against risk for the subsequent shift change of workers.

The culture at the workplace can affect health and safety. Senior management commitment is crucial to sustaining a positive attitude.  The status given to health and safety at a given organization combined with resources and training will fester a positive culture towards it. A sensitive and caring attitude to employees’ health and safety concerns and an ‘open door’ policy will make workers feel appreciated and inspire them to attain a level of safety respect for themselves and their environment. ‘Cutting corners’ in health and safety to increase production levels should not be encouraged. It may save some time initially but the costs due to risk will be greater in the long run.

Sources   hse

Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction resulting from exposure to allergens or irritants. It is a localized rash or irritation of the skin caused by a foreign substance. Contact dermatitis may take days or weeks to fade away and then only if the skin is no longer exposed to the irritant. A study of hairdressers has shown that 45%  (this is approximately 50,000 cases) of hairdressers suffer from dermatitis. Dermatitis is not infectious, i.e it cannot be passed on from person to person, but it is unsightly and uncomfortable. ‘Contact dermatitis’ is a reaction of the skin coming in contact with an adverse agent and this can be an irritant or allergic reaction. Dermatitis can be diagnosed by flaking, cracking, rash and redness of the skin. Irritant contact dermatitis is local inflammation of the skin. It can remove the natural protective action of the skin so that the skin is exposed to the irritant. Allergic contact dermatitis develops in stages, first the irritant causes a sensitization to the skin. This provokes a number of immunological responses. When the skin is then re-exposed to the allergen, there may be itching, swelling, blisters and redness. Once sensitised this allergic reaction may affect the person for the rest of their life. Common causes of irritant contact dermatitis are detergents, bleach powders and emulsions, acid perms, colorant removers,  and preparations that contain hydrogen peroxide solution. In addition to these chemicals simple shampooing can also cause dermatitis. This is due to frequent wetting of the hands, products defatting the skin and the water temperature. Causes of allergic contact dermatitis can be  nickel, gold, poison ivy, among others. This is less common than irritant dermatitis and not prevalent in the hairdressing industry. Occupational contact dermatitis is very common in hairdressing.

Prevention of Contact Dermatitis

  • Wearing disposable non latex gloves when rinsing, coloring, shampooing and bleaching. A longer length glove should be chosen, folding the cuff back to prevent water running down the arms. When removing, gloves should be peeled down from the outside and the outside of the glove not touched. Gloves must only be used once.
  • Hands should be dried thoroughly after washing to prevent any residue left on them. Hands should be moisturised with a fragrance free cream. The use of E45 or other aqueous creams are beneficial as they rehydrate the skin and reduce the risk of irritant dermatitis.
  • Skin should be checked regularily for any sign of dermatitis symptoms like dryness, itching, swelling and redness. This is what the industry calls a ‘health surveillance’
  • Know the hazardous agents. Chemicals labeled with ‘R’ phrases indicate that they may have the potential to cause dermatitis. ‘R38’ means it is an irritant to the skin. ‘R43’ means it may cause sensitization by skin contact. ‘R66’ means repeated exposure may cause skin dryness or cracking. ‘R34’ means it causes burns. ‘R35’ causes severe burns.

In hairdressing, employers and employees need to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH) and carry out a regular ‘health surveillance’ of employees. Employers need to access risk and put adequate control measures in place and ensure the proper training of staff. RIDDOR reports should be carried out to keep track, monitor and establish preventative ways of occupational contact dermatitis.

Sources   wikipedia    torbay    nhs   nottingham city   hse   sholland    cieh

Asbestos fibres are naturally present in the environment in Britain, but in very small doses that we have become acclimatized to. The danger occurs when the amount of fibres in the air are concentrated and inhaled. This may be many hundreds of times the natural occurrence.  The effects of breathing in and exposing oneself to asbestos may cause acute and fatal diseases later on in life. Asbestos related deaths results in around 4500 a year. Asbestos causes four main diseases, one fatal one is mesothelioma (this is a cancer that develops from the cells of the mesothelium, which is the protective lining of most of the internal organs of the body) and lung cancer which is always terminal. Non-fatal diseases include asbestosis (a chronic inflammatory medical condition that affects the lungs), although not fatal, this can be very debilitating. So for these reasons, the use of asbestos has been banned since 1999.

However, asbestos has been used all over the world in building materials since the mid-nineteenth century. One of the uses was as asbestos insulating board in ceilings, windows and door panels. It was also used as a sprayed coating i.e as fire protection on structural supports like columns and beams. Asbestos was also used in toilet cisterns, water tanks, pipe insulation, as floor tiles, in cement mixtures…actually it was used in almost most places in the home. Up to 50% of the building material in any home may contain asbestos today, but it is only lethal if it is disturbed and inhaled. It is best to leave it alone rather than remove it. The main types of asbestos can be categorised as blue, brown and white but this is this is not distinctively clear; asbestos has many guises and can be difficult to detect, especially if mixed with other materials.

asbestos in the home

asbestos in the home

However, asbestos can be managed. The best way to treat asbestos is not to touch or disturb it. That way it won’t release the deadly fibres. But many times there are accidents in the home and in commercial buildings and so the materials may crack, break, fall or expose themselves in such a way that allows the asbestos fibres to escape and be a hazard to humans.  A professional licensed removal firm is vital to remove asbestos. Full body coverage and a respiratory apparatus is essential when dealing with this deadly material. Asbestos cannot be vacuumed or disposed of in a normal rubbish bin. It needs to be taken to specialized disposal sites.

Simple steps to managing asbestos

  • Plan on working around and not disturbing these materials if possible
  • Those that are working around asbestos need to be trained. This will include how to protect one’s health, how to recognise asbestos, what equipment to use, emergency procedures and waste disposal
  • When working at heights in a suspect asbestos area, risk assess for falls or ‘maintenance’ that could cause asbestos to be exposed through breakages
  • The workers need to have the correct equipment to work on the different kinds of asbestos materials, for example, working with textured coatings and working with cement containing asbestos are two different asbestos related envirnoments
  • Make arrangements for the correct disposal of asbestos waste


Sources   hse   Wikipedia   the guardian   take5andstayalive

image   hse

Hydrocarbons are organic compounds consisting entirely of carbon and hydrogen; there are many different kinds which result from differing molecular structures. Some of the most common hydrocarbons include methane, ethane, propane and butane. They are mainly found in crude oil. Extracted hydrocarbons in liquid form are called petroleum and in gaseous form are called natural gas. Hydrocarbons are the main source of the world’s electricity and gas production. Offshore oil rigs do pose a major hazard. Any or all of these events could occur:

  • Fire and release of hydrocarbons
  • Explosion resulting in the release of an explosive cloud
  • Oil release into the sea

HSE’s Offshore Division (OSD) is the directive responsible for the offshore oil and gas industry.  The OSD is responsible for regulating the UK’s Continental Shelf oil and gas rigs. The OSD tries to ensure that investigations of past hydrocarbon releases are thorough, so to avoid a re-occurrence. There have been 139 major and significant releases in 1999/2000. From 2005/2006 onwards hydrocarbon releases have plateaued to 70 to 80 per year. Offshore employers and the self-employed on rigs have a duty to ensure they work by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). DSEAR protects workers against the risk from fire and explosion. The safe production and processing of hydrocarbons is necessary.



Duty Holders (those responsible for maintaining the oil/gas rig) have a responsibility to consider the adverse health effects as well as the immediate effects such as fire and explosion. Any real side effects caused by hydrocarbons usually result in exposure of concentrations of thousands of ppm. Health effects include asphyxiation, narcosis (leads to unconsciousness), cardiac arrest and aspiration. Hydrocarbons with a higher molecular weight are more likely to produce a narcotic effect. Hydrocarbons may be released through intentional (e.g sampling, maintenance) or accidental (eg leaks from pipes or somewhere within the plant). If the breach was through e.g maintenance there should be respiratory protective equipment for staff, de-gassing and de-pressurising systems in operation to contain the release. Prevention is the way of managing accidental breach. There must be an identified escape route (outside of any confined spaces), alarms in all areas on the rig, disaster training and the use of respiratory protection. Respiratory protection needs to be within easy reach of staff and they need to have been trained in how to use this quickly, as the effect of hydrocarbons on the body can occur within a few seconds. On rigs there must be effective fire and explosion control to detect leaks early on. A temporary refuge area must be maintained to house workers temporarily in the event of hydrocarbon release.


The Environment

Wildlife and ecosystems can be damaged through oil spills. Accidents can occur from crude oil leaking through the sea surface and from refined oil leaks from tanker ships. Spills at sea are much more damaging than on land because they can spread for hundreds of miles covering everything in a thin and deadly oily film. Vessels must be contained within effective pressure to contain the hydrocarbon. There should be risk based inspections to identify any signs of corrosion in the pipework.

The use of petroleum can react negatively with the environment causing the release of greenhouse gases into the air. Also, the earth only has a finite reserve of oil so there is concern over depleting this energy reserve and the effects it could have on sustaining future generations.


Sources   HSE website    wikipedia

The recreational use of marijuana, has, within the last year, been made legal in the US states of Colorado and Washington. Amendment 64 was passed by voters, which was the measure to seek the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults. This will allow adults to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from speciality marijuana dispensaries and grow up to six plants in their homes. However, marijuana still remains illegal under federal law in the US. This means that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is a federal agency, isn’t involved in monitoring the manufacture, sale and use of marijuana in any format. In the US states, where it is now legal under state law,  it is legal to smoke it in the privacy of one’s home and personal stash is restricted, however, selling it without a license is not. Even though this still remains a federal offence, proponents don’t foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized marijuana.

It is up to State officials to determine the health and safety protocols for the production and sale of marijuana and issue licenses for its sale. Under state law there is no real way to address the public health issues that may stem during the production of marijuana. Safety risks in production range from impurities in the marijuana to moulds and pesticide residues. Moulds may develop due to poor air quality associated with the cultivation of marijuana plants in homes. There is currently a laboratory in Colorado that tests for medical cannabis. They test samples for potency and for the presence of solvents. It has been stated that E. Coli and Salmonella has be found in the cannabis flowers. Marijuana is susceptible to pests and to mould.

New standards would have to be devised, not only to detect impurities, but also to confirm the strength of the active ingredients and representation of such on labels. The assurance of regulation such as this may make the market for this product more attractive. This may even help marijuana products compete better with the medical market, if it is backed by stringent quality control measures and is known not to contain contaminants harmful to health. Regulators face the huge task of making sure pot products are not a hazard to public health. There is currently no quality control tests in the production of marijuana, and, no protocol for recalling contaminated pot products.

A report just before the legalization of marijuana, from the Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP), had cited a public health and safety concern involved with the production and distribution of marijuana. These included considering a safe way of distributing dried marihuana to individuals who use it for medical purposes. It has been suggested that it could be distributed through pharmacies, as these premises have experience with distributing therapeutic products. As well as the presence of microbes and mould, there may be electrical fire hazards, stemming from the cultivation of marijuana in homes.

Marijuana is a Class B drug. Effects on the user include periods of relaxation and heightening of the senses. Downsides include impaired co-ordination and increased risk of accidents. Prolonged use can also lead to anxiety and depression. There has been proven positive effects on the use of cannibas in medical use but a balanced view should always be sought and the risks acknowledged.


Sources   the huffington post   HSE   drug free   CNBC   NBC news   hc-sc