Needles on a Plane

Last month, our family vacation took us to Barcelona. Our route was POS to MIA then MIA to BCN with a duration of approximately 4 hours and 10 hours respectively. The POS-MIA route was not as much of an issue as the MIA-BCN, due in part to our 2-day stop in Miami prior to our trans-atlantic flight.

The latter route was a cause for concern for Mom, who, being a Type 2 Diabetic, would need access to her insulin within the 14+ hours of travelling (inclusive of checkin and airport transits). She uses syringes and a vial of insulin. I am aware that the insulin vials  are 10ml and therefore permissible under the ‘Liquids Rule’, however my main concern was not the insulin as much as it was the needles on the plane. 

Travellers exiting the US know that the Transport and Security Administration (TSA) can be a bit strict with their checks prohibiting sharp objects such as pocket knives but interestingly enough safety pins, tweezers and sewing needles are actually permitted in carry on luggage, according TSA’s website, perhaps medical needles are permitted?…

Just to be sure, I did some digging to find answers to the following questions:

  1. Are sharps and insulin bottles greater than 3oz allowed in carry on luggage?

    Yes. According to TSA’s website, medication (and baby formula) are exempt from the ‘Liquids Rule‘, which means quantities in excess of 3.4oz or 100ml are permitted. TSA’s Blog mentions that an unlimited amount of unused syringes as well as lancets are permitted in carry on luggage. However, in an undated document on U.S. Congressman Michael C. Burgess’ website, it states that up to 8oz of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatment is permitted.

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    10ml vial of Novolin 70/30 and insulin syringe
  2. Is any medical documentation required as proof of your medical condition?

    No, but it doesn’t hurt to have it. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends visiting your doctor prior to travelling to acquire a letter detailing what to do for your condition: pills, insulin,  medical devices required and allergies present. Additionally ADA also advises getting a prescription for insulin and/or pills incase you need to acquire them at your destination. Interestingly enough, TSA’s website only states to inform the officer (verbally) and suggests presenting your TSA Notification Card or other medical documentation describing your condition upon screening. Mom didn’t have a letter or prescription, just her TSA Notification Card, and there were no issues.

    The above mentioned document on Michael C. Burgess’ website states that liquid prescription medicine should bare the same name as the passenger ticket in order to be permitted. TSA’s blog however, states that labelling of prescription medication is dictated by the specific state and not required by TSA. I think it is a good rule of thumb, that in the absence of a letter or prescription from the doctor, the dispensary’s label should at least verify the ownership of the medication in question. Additionally keeping the original packaging is also recommended. To my knowledge, insulin can be acquired without a prescription in Trinidad, but it’s still a good idea to ask the pharmacist to label the patient’s information on the box.

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    You can download and print your own TSA Notification Card
  3. Does TSA require the passenger to provide special disposal units for used sharps?

    Yes, according to TSA’s website. I’m not so sure if they specifically asked to see the disposal unit, but we got one on Amazon. Then again we might have found out the hard way if we didn’t… I’ve seen some Youtube videos of people who’ve used regular plastic bottles with screw caps for disposal when travelling. TSA doesn’t require an actual ‘mini biohazard bin’, but a similar hard surface container, I’m not quite sure what constitutes that criteria…. In any event, the responsible way to dispose of sharps is to utilise an appropriate receptacle that minimises needle sticks.

    Additionally, TSA’s Blog outlines that an unlimited amount of used syringes is also permitted, I guess this is based on the capacity of the disposal receptacle?…

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    BTravel Savvy Sharps Disposal Container purchased on Amazon
  4. What is the best method for maintaining insulin’s correct temperature for 14+ hours?

    Insulin can be kept at room temperature (15-25° C) for 28 days, but it is advised to be kept in a refrigerator when not in use. Diabetes Canada warns against carrying insulin in checked luggage as it may be subjected to freezing temperatures in flight. The ADA also suggests that pressure in the cargo hold can also affect insulin quality. Additionally, keeping your supplies in your carry on is a good idea to avoid the drama associated with stolen luggage….

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    It’s a good idea to read the information on the box, as storage temperatures and other related information varies by type and brand.

    Apart from your flight’s duration, it’s a good idea to check the temperature forecast for the destination you’re heading to. Barcelona’s temperature was between 15-23°C so additional refrigeration wasn’t necessary. The temperature in the aircraft was also around 21°C which didn’t really require the use of an insulated pack. 

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    My Oria Thermometer and Hygrometer recorded an inflight temperature of 20.6°C….note the very low humidity…

    Miami and Trinidad’s temperature however, were hitting maximums above 30°C at our time of travel. To mitigate this we got an insulated pack for medical vials from our local pharmacy. I also got another unit off Amazon, but mom doesn’t really use it because it’s more bulky…Please note that these methods store the vial only, don’t forget to pack the outer box/packaging (with dispensary’s label) elsewhere in your carry on. The insulated pack should also be utilised even if temperatures are acceptable since it  provides good a cushion for preventing damage to the glass vial in your carry on.

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    Insulated travel case acquired from our local pharmacy. It’s a tri-fold soft case design with a removable freezable pack…we swapped out the original pack (due to wear) with a freezable eye mask and it works just as well.

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    Medicool Insulin Protector Case acquired from Amazon – has a removable moulded freezer pack that holds 2 vials, it also comes with a spare freezer pack – its design is more bulky, but can perhaps hold temperatures for longer
  5. Can insulin pass through the X-ray machine at the security check point?

    Yes, according to ADA’s website. However if you have concerns about it’s safety going through the scanner, TSA states that you should inform the officer before the screening process begins. This may then entail addition screening, perhaps even a pat down….

Packing Tips

  • Take double the amount you think you need – to avoid any unforeseen mishaps or travel delays
  • Pack a new vial – it’s easy to see from the information on the box that a new bottle of insulin can last longer than an opened bottle.

 

Additional Info

ADA suggests being conscious of adjusting insulin dosages when crossing timezones. Eastward travel means a shorter day and may require a smaller dose and vice versa for westward travel, this could be mentioned in your pre-travel doctor’s visit.

Here’s a really interesting article…if you’re up for reading further:

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/about-diabetes/general-diabetes-information/traveling-with-diabetes/

Information on this subject is constantly being updated, so please seek the most recent advisories from official sources.

I hope this helps you or someone you know on their next flight!

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Glass Recycling Safety-iCare vs Glass Works

Recycling has really picked up in Trinidad within the last year. A lot of persons are now sorting their recyclables and taking them to the various collection receptacles around the country. iCare is the first national recycling initiative in Trinidad with collection bins at over 70 locations nationwide. They advertise collection of plastics, glass, drink cartons (Tetra Pak) and aluminium containers.

I predominantly recycle my plastics and cartons, but hesitate to dispose of my glass containers at iCare bins. These receptacles have 3 aluminium wall panels with a wire mesh door and an open top. You can place your recyclables by either opening the wire door or heaving your trash-bags into the receptacle through the top. I don’t think there are any guidelines for preparing your trash for disposal, so it’s up to your discretion.

Have you ever thought about the persons who have to clear these receptacles? I’ve often time seen unsecured glass containers at iCare bins…We  usually take care to wrap our broken glass in newspaper or perhaps use a box when disposing of it in our regular trash, but I don’t think we’ve translated that skill to this type of disposal…

I think the design of the iCare bins is not quite suited to disposing of glass containers, which is why I’m glad Glass Works came along. Their bins are metal and are totally enclosed with a small door and chute preventing access to the contents of the receptacle which also contains any broken glass fragments. I would hope that the collection teams for this bin will be more prepared to deal with broken glass than those for iCare.

So I’ll continue using iCare for my plastics and cartons and will be disposing of my glass at Glass Works receptacles. Wouldn’t iCare send glass to Glass Works anyway?…

Note: Lightbulbs, Labware and Windows Panes should not be disposed of at Glass Works receptacles.

What do you think?

If You Can’t Get a Job, Start a Blog!

Today like many other young Trinidadians my age, I lost my job after working for a Government Statutory Body. For the past year I’ve worked on 3 month contracts that were intermittently broken to ensure I had no ‘benefits’ i.e. gratuity. A couple months prior to today I had been given the heads up that the possibility existed that I would be on the chopping block and about 6 weeks ago the ‘big chop’ was confirmed.

Peoples’ responses varied, when I ‘broke the news’. Some expressed their worry and uncertainty for me now, reiterating the fact that it is ‘soo hard for young people now-a-days’. On the flip side some people are shocked to know that someone with qualifications and experience can be in such a position…. Most of these comments I would like to think are coming from a good place, but it did hit me that all their opinions were centred around one thing…….working for someone else…

I’m sorry that they see life one way, in that the only way to get stability is by working for someone else. Education has given me (and perhaps them) a false hope, and only shows that I am good at passing an exam or submitting an assignment, following rules or conforming to a system. I don’t think that’s a good measure or marker of a person’s ability to function in a real-life situation. I agree that working for someone can open your eyes to some of the realities that exist out there, but that time should be spent analysing your experience, proposing ideas for change and seeing how you can make a difference if you were the boss.

What about opening my own business?-Another train of thought wants me to believe that I need to have money to start a business…and I believe this is true for some businesses. However, I also believe that there are avenues to get noticed and share ideas that are completely free of charge. A lot of young people have made a livelihood from blogging and vlogging and if it is you feel yourself ‘wasting away’ while job hunting, I think starting a blog may be a good idea.

Before continuing, let me say that I genuinely enjoy writing and I didn’t get into blogging for views or to make money. In my limited time in the workplace I realised that I could lay claim to little-to-none of the tasks that I undertook…I didn’t own my work-the company did. Setting up a blog is free, and is a great way to share your ideas….you never know who you’ll impact or what opportunities may present itself from being discovered through your posts!

I’m not saying I’m going into blogging full-time or that I make money from it (which I don’t), but I’m pitching the idea that you can use your skills outside the workplace or to occupy your time in a meaningful way until you land that job!

If the following applies to you, perhaps you already have content for your blog:

  • Do you find yourself initiating conversations with your friends/family about ways in which a system, product or service can be improved?-I’m not just talking stating what’s wrong, but a balance of identifying an issue and proposing a solution.
  • Do you find yourself going home to do research about a particular product or service? Staying up late reading reviews or watching Youtube videos to aid in choosing between something you want to buy?-perhaps your experience varies once you’ve receive the product and you think you could have done a better job at reviewing it than those websites you went to…
  • Do you have a diary and like to document various life events, or even the content of your Instagram and Snapchat stories feature you commenting on issues that you can offer a solution to?

Here’s how I think blogging can benefit anyone who’s currently in between jobs:

  • Proving to any prospective employer that you are who you claim to be on your resume. It definitely proves that you are self motivated, committed, dynamic, knowledgeable and a quick learner…to add some context to those cliche descriptors that  may litter your resume…
  • An avenue to display  your research, writing and analytical capabilities-especially if it is you don’t have work experience yet.
  • Definitely a demonstration of your ability to apply concepts learnt from your schooling or perhaps your ability to teach yourself something totally new.

My biggest motivation for blogging is trying to lay claim to an idea before someone else does, I always feel as though the clock is ticking and someone else’s brain is working on the same exact idea as I am….I need to hurry up and post this!!!! This may or may not be true, but so far it’s working!

There are so many little areas of daily inspiration I get to write and now being free from a regular job gives me the ability to do just that. As it stands, I don’t have a large reader-ship, which is fine, I will continue to write even if no one reads my posts. I also know it doesn’t pay my bills, but I see it as opportunity to increase my chances of doing so, therefore it’s definitely a worthwhile expense of time.

Here are some blogging don’ts:

  • Never aim to damage anyone’s reputation. There are clever ways of expressing your emotions or opinions, but at no time should you do it such a way that causes harm.
  • Never infringe on anyone’s privacy. Do I really need to explain that?…
  • For every problem you identify in a product, service, system or experience always offer a solution. Your blog will quickly turn into a rant if you don’t propose a solution to issues you’ve identified. This is the gold ticket, and a true test of your ability to problem solve.
  • Don’t give everything away. Some of the solutions you come up with can be the beginnings of something you may want to claim intellectual property rights to. You’re not obligated to go into grave detail about fixing any problem that at some point someone else can easily lay claim to developing later on. Just aim to wet peoples’ appetites!
  • Don’t conform to conventional blogging topics…..there are enough food, travel, lifestyle and fashion bloggers out there….find your own niche and things that interest you. I think there aren’t enough Caribbean bloggers promoting our way of life via a blogging platform, examine what that means to you and go create something new!
  • Don’t blog for popularity. If it is that you create quality content, you will get recognised-not immediately, but you will eventually. By the time you grow in popularity you would have built a solid repertoire of work that will keep people coming back.

This is something that is totally left up to you to do, and without the (initial) monetary reward, it really is the true test of how passionate and dedicated you are about what you do. For that little piece of cyberspace that you control, you have all rights to lay claim to what you create and share. When those interview questions come about how have you been applying your skills or what you have done to develop your expertise, you now have solid proof of that.

Let’s see how this blog turns out!

Construction on Trincity Central Road

There are 2 sites currently under  construction along  the Trincity Central Road.

Trincity Central is located at the roundabout, and more recently the Trincity Village Centre started going up in the vicinity of Republic Bank and Superpharm.

Did you know that the law requires an occupier to protect the health and safety of the public in the vicinity of his industrial establishment from dangers created by the operation or processes carried out therein? It’s obvious that one of those dangers is dust…

The blue panel/galvanise fencing works at both locations, but I like the fact that the contractors at Trincity Central went the extra mile in incorporating debris protection (netting) over their fencing to act as a windscreen minimising transmission of airborne dust emanating from the site. I’m curious to know how long the neighbouring school, bank, residents and businesses can tolerate the dust from the Trincity Village Central site….

What do you think?

The Staircase at C3

Walking up these stairs is not the problem for me….it’s walking down. This staircase makes me dizzy… It seems that the pattern of the flooring cleverly disguises the depth changes for each step. The issue is not ascending the staircase as the mild shadows created highlight the risers. However from the top of the staircase, the changes in height of each tread blend in so well….it seriously messes with your depth perception… where it would be worse to fall while descending as opposed to ascending the staircase…

Traction on this surface is not an issue, and they did contrasting colours for the 2 steps leading to the top of the staircase, why not continue for this entire staircase…. (aesthetics?)….even with the customary handrail signs, I don’t think they can save you….

What do you think?

 

 

Trinbago Coney Island-Part 2

Part 2 of the post mainly focuses on rides that are intended for adults only. I’ve also learnt that there is a difference between Amusement Park and Fair Rides, the former being a more permanent fixture compared to the nomadic nature of the latter. As I would have mentioned before, Trinbago Coney Island appears to be more of a Fair than  an Amusement Park. From my last post until now I havn’t learnt anything new by way of a local inspection body that caters to Fair grounds, therefore all my research is non-native. Numerous persons experience the thrill of these amusement rides without accident or injury, but ensuring you leave with only an adrenaline rush…is the purpose of this post.

Part 2 covers the higher intensity Vulcano, Tahtoo, Dancing Fly and Blue Shake rides. I also discuss Annual Inspections, Lifespan of a Ride, Foreseeable Misuse, Insurance and First Aid.

Vulcano

In some state fairs it’s known as the Fire  Ball where the ride swings like a pendulum simultaneously rotating its riders. Just last year the Washington Post reported a mechanical failure whereby 2 rows of seats struck a metal structural support beam launching 2 people into the air killing one in a Fire Ball ride. The article further details that this ride was inspected before the fair was opened.

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Vulcano Ride

Tahtoo

This type of ride is also known as a zero gravity ride. It also carries names such as Round Up, Meteorite or Super Spiral. It consists of a circular horizontal platform with a vertical cage-like wall around the edge. The platform is attached to a motor on a hydraulic arm. The ride starts out by spinning until the centrifugal force is enough to push riders against the wall. Then the arm raises, allowing the horizontal platform to spin riders in a vertical position.

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Tahtoo Ride

Dancing Fly

Also known as the Hully Gully-Ballerina ride, seats about for 40 passengers  and involves the spinning movement of the cars rotating on an eccentric axis up to 44 degrees. I havn’t been able to get details on the speeds of these rides, but I’m very curious to find out.

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Dancing Fly Ride
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Close up of the Dancing Fly Ride

Blue Shake

This is another pendulum type ride which rotates its riders around a bar. For added ‘fun’ the row of seats isn’t fixed and rotates independently while swinging. In a similar version of the ride, known as the Space Adventure, a 14 year old girl died after being flung from the ride in China. It appears that she slipped from her seat while the ride was in motion.

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Blue Shake Ride

Annual Inspection of Rides

The Building and Construction Authority in Singapore has published comprehensive guidance for the annual inspection of amusement rides in their jurisdiction.

I’ve summerised their content as follows:

  1. Preparation for Inspection-dismantling, identification of critical welds, stripping of paints/coverings, provision of access and other equipment, servicing or replacement of parts.
  2. Physical Inspection and Testing-foundation & structural elements, wire ropes, chains and accessories, pressure vessels and accessories, welds and joints, patron restraints, patron containment and clearance envelope, electrical components, electrical cables and connections, earthing and bonding, emergency lighting, control system, mechanical components, hydraulic & pneumatic systems, mechanical transmission systems, drives, brakes, damping and absorbers, safety equipment, fencing, platforms & walkways, signage.
  3. Function Tests-correct working of controls, operating speeds and range, safety devices, restraints and restraint systems, efficiency of braking system, acceleration and deceleration under normal working conditions and in emergency.
  4. Documentation-annual inspection report, report on serious safety-related defects, remedial actions, certification

Inspections of this type should be done by trained and certified personnel, insurance companies may also send their inspectors to protect their end. Rides may also require Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) to check for subsurface issues that may be overlooked by a visual inspection.

It goes without saying that the park should be closed for some time for any of the above to be carried out. Seeing that Trinbago Coney Island  has been nomadic, it is advisable that some if not all checks be done when setting up shop at a new location before opening. Inspections are not a one-off occurrence, the park should have established daily, weekly and monthly checks to ensure the operational safety of these rides. Of course this information is not privy to the public, but sharing it aims at educating the public on what should be done to ensure safety.

Lifespan of an Amusement Park Ride

An industry consultant based in California is of the opinion that there’s no life expectancy to a fair ride if you are carrying out the maintenance requirements as stipulated by the manufacturer. I don’t quite agree with this as there are a number of variables that exist with the same ride at differing locations. Maintainance requirements are standardised and may not account for added checks that need to be carried out if the rides are located in harsh environments eg. exposure to sea spray, high humidity/rainfall or extremes of temperature. In such instances it may be left up to the discretion of the park owner to dictate any added maintenance checks in light of the site and situation of his operations.

Further to this, I think the lifespan of a ride can be dictated by 2 criteria:

Wear and Tear-One would hope that the maximum capacity and duration of a ride would not be exceeded by the manufacturer’s guidance. However, if it is that the ride does not meet, far less exceed, the operational maximums-this can be taken into consideration when considering its lifespan with respect to wear and tear. This information however, should also be taken in light of its environmental and respective maintenance conditions in order to make such a determination.

Ride Design-Not every aspect of design flaws ‘rears its ugly head’ in the testing phases of a ride and as such these oversights trickle down when the ride is opened to the public. The safety barriers in a roller coaster  were found to be inadequately designed for an amputee, after a US Army vet was thrown from that ride in 2011. Additionally, following the decapitation of a 10 year old boy, it was revealed that  there were major design flaws at a Kansas waterslide in an attempt to expedite its construction to impress producers of the show “Xtreme Waterparks”. I don’t think this criteria applies to the rides at Trinbago Coney Island since all the ride designs are standard and have been in use for a number for years around the world.

Perhaps where the 2 criteria overlap may be a consideration of how the ride design has changed over time if/when major restorative works need to be carried out. It is the duty of management to determine if these repairs impose any added risk to to patrons.

Foreseeable Misuse

Granted that all the equipment has passed its inspections, the human factor also contributes to why things may sometimes go amiss at parks of this type. HSG175 suggests that foreseeable misuse is not the intention of the designer, but rather results from predictable human behaviour. It may be irrational, induced by fear and is unlikely to include patrons who exhibit reckless behaviour. Some examples of how this behaviour could arise are: use of cameras/phones on roller coasters, failing to observe safety instructions or passengers disembarking a ride before it completely comes to a stop.

This pretty much describes your typical Trinidadian…we may hear the safety information given prior to entering the ride, but do we really listen?…..seldom…

One example I can relate to is getting friction burns on coming down a water slide. I always intend to follow instructions by keeping my arms and legs close to my body while coming down the slides, but my natural response to trying to control my speed renders the oppose response. But let me also add that I believe that the designer has a role to play in considering the spectrum of unintentional and irrational behaviours that may arise when the ride is in use and put measures in place to limit damage to patrons.

I digress to add that while experiencing the thrill of a ride, I think some patrons may not be able to differentiate their thrill from danger arising from faulty equipment. This is not a case of foreseeable misuse, but all the same in attempting to cater to the risk that arises from patrons’ response on fair rides. The thrill experienced from a dangerous conditions may therefore go undetected to the park’s staff and perhaps exacerbate itself in an accident later on.

Here’s a creative way one US operator tackles Foreseeable Misuse 🙂

Insurance

I don’t know if it is safe to assume that Trinbago Coney Island has Public Liability Insurance unless a major accident occurs. I’m also not sure if it is a local legal requirement for the operation of events of this nature. By way of general knowledge, Maritime General Insurance sheds some light on the requirements for Public Liability Insurance locally.

Key information required is:

  • If machinery other than lifts, cranes or hoists are to be included
  • If vehicles or vessels are to be insured, whereby a separate insurance is necessary for mechanically propelled vehicles
  • If the  premises, machinery, appliances and plant are sound and in good repair

Coverage is given for:

  • Bodily injury to or illness of any person
  • Loss of or damage to property
  • Liability arising from fire and explosion
  • Liability arising from food or beverage served for consumption

 

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Information on Trinbago Coney Island’s Website-I’m curious to know who the manufacturers and insurers are as well as what public laws exist locally, compare this with info on the Six Flags website.

I guess you can also allude that Foreseeable Misuse may not be covered by Public Liability Insurance.

First Aid

At the time of my visit I didn’t notice any First Aid area, and I don’t know if the park attendants were First Aid trained.  There are roughly 20 minor injuries to 1 major injury at amusement parks in Ontario, and seeing that minor injuries are more prevalent than major injuries, it should be the duty of Coney Island’s management to ensure there is a First Aid station in place.

That said, I think that sufficient means of reporting should accompany treatment. Minor incidents/injuries (in some cases) are essentially near misses and can be a good indicator that a major incident/injury may be on the horizon. A First Aid station can therefore be a useful tool in tracking trends in which rides may have hazards that were undetected in the inspection process, or failure of staff to adequately brief patrons. It has the potential to identify risks posed by factors other than the rides themselves, and hopefully prevent some accidents from occurring.

In my previous post on the Harry’s Water Park Accident, we see first hand how a lack of medical arrangements can potentially exacerbate a situation. Additionally, how public opinions shared on social media can damage a company’s reputation. Having a First Aid station definitely shows the company is caring and responsible and increases the likelihood of a positive review on social media.

 

I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and I hope this encourages similar local  establishments to raise their safety standards!

Click here for Part 1.

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La Cantina’s Bathroom- C3 Centre

La Cantina has one of the most interesting public restroom designs I’ve seen.

When you walk into the single door to the restroom area, there is each a cubicle for Handicap, Male, Female and Family all sharing 2 communal sinks. It doesn’t seem that the Handicap cubicle has handrails either. Very interesting use of space, perhaps ‘inclusive’ even…but I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if my young daughter used a cubicle next to one occupied by a strange man….

What do you think?

 

CC8 Trincity-Renovations

It looks like CC8 Trincity is undergoing renovations.

What I think they did right: Schedule the work outside of operating hours-no workmen were seen. No tools were left on the scaffolding either-lessening falling objects as a potential source of injury.

What I think they could have improved on: Have a sign informing the public of the renovation works. Cordon off the storage area to prevent unauthorised entry and potential injury. Include more signage with unauthorised zones (scaffolding, tool/material storage). Assess if the carpet removal would affect indoor air quality and sanitation with the sale of food and drink.

What do you think?

Can CrossFit prevent Occupational MSDs?

I’m neither a Physiotherapist nor an Ergonomist, but I can say that after being exposed to CrossFit for the past 5 years, I believe its movement concepts are a goldmine in assisting Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals in reducing the risk of Musculo-Skeletal Diseases/Disorders (MSDs) that can be developed in the workplace. MSDs are on the list of recognized occupational diseases according to the TT OSH Act. 

MSDs are conditions that affect the nerves, tendons, muscles and supporting structures, such as the discs in your back.  Examples include: Carpel tunnel syndrome, Tendinitis, Rotator cuff injuries, Epicondylitis, Muscle strains and low back injuries.

CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximising the amount of work done in the shortest time. 

Before continuing, I acknowledge that there are a lot of articles on CrossFit being the cause of MSDs, but that’s a different argument. I’m here explore the option of its concepts and principles as a tool in the prevention of MSDs outside the gym i.e. the workplace.

What we’re trained to tell you…

The UK’s Health and Safety  Executive (HSE) Toolbox Manual advises the following, by way of mitigation:

  • Plan to rest along the route or change grip
  • Keep the load closest to the waist
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body
  • Adopt a stable position and make sure your feet are apart, with one leg slightly forward to main balance.

These guidelines are usually given to employees without a proper consideration of their physical condition more specifically their strength and mobility. It can also be seen that these principles are adaptations of some of the fundamentals already used in CrossFit. For example, it’s evident that:

  • Planned rest can relate to the ‘Every Minute On the Minute’ (EMOM) concept
  • Keeping the load closest to the waist can relate to a med-ball carry
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body is essentially effective deadlift and ‘clean’ form which stipulates keeping the barbell close to the body
  • Adopting a stable position is the stance assumed when performing a power clean

In order to maintain and carry out these movements, CrossFit promotes the concept of mobility as opposed to flexibility. Men’s Health describes mobility as the ability to perform functional pattern with no restrictions in range of motion (ROM) while a flexible persons may not have the core strength, balance or coordination to perform the same movements as the person with greater mobility.

Which do you think is more desirable in the prevention of MSDs?

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One of many posters at the gym showing some common routines for the maintenance of mobility based on common functional movements.

Prior to starting CrossFit, I was naturally strong (for a girl), but my mobility sucked. I, like a lot of people out there had limited mobility due to long periods of sitting and a lack of knowledge about mobility. My mobility has improved since training, but inconsistency has been my limiting reagent.

Another issue is that of form. The CrossFit community places a heavy emphasis on form, so strict that they’ve established standards and certifications around it, utilised in practice and competition. The OSH community mentions form, but I don’t think most safety practitioners have an understanding of what it means, especially the contribution that a person’s mobility plays in executing proper form. This, I believe may be a contributing factor to some instances of MSDs in the workplace.

HSE example1
The HSE’s take on Good Handling Technique as outlined in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

The above image doesn’t portray the best form…We’re assuming the worker’s leg muscles are strong enough to maintain a healthy posture-mobility hasn’t been taken into account with this. In my experience, I would not have been able to carry out  this type of movement without having some knowledge of squatting or dead-lifting.

CrossFit Gyms vs Workplaces

To balance the discussion, we must acknowledge the obvious differences between lifting at a (CrossFit) gym and that of a workplace.

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Common weights in the gym: well balanced, precise and symmetrical with good gripping points.

The free-weights in a CrossFit gym are well balanced, precise and designed not to shift when in motion. They also have fairly decent gripping points. Perhaps a sandbag may be the only weight that can be likened to an ‘uneven’ load. It is also important to note that you will not find machines such as a pec deck, leg press or ab crunchers etc. at a CrossFit gym, making it more applicable to real-life situations.

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Variation in gripping points between brick and a kettle bell- just one example of how weights in the gym vary from the working world.

Just like wrist wraps and lifting belts aim to provide stabilisation while lifting in the gym, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as back braces and Mechanix gloves work in a similar fashion and do NOT prevent injury. I can choose to further nit-pick at lifting shoes vs steel toe boots as well as coveralls vs tights in affecting a persons ability to carry out such tasks. However, I think many companies are now engineering their coverall designs to reduce fatigue and promote bodily movement.

 

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Lifting belt and gloves commonly used at the gym vs back brace and nitrile-cut resistant gloves commonly used for working tasks.

Environmental conditions are also expected to vary but CrossFit is usually done in gyms without a/c and welcome outdoor activity, so there exists some measure of overlap in this regard. However, factors such as flooring surfaces may be different- gym flooring is impact resistant allowing for loads to be dropped and provides a somewhat cushioned surface to prevent in fall injuries-most workplaces don’t provide this ‘luxury’.

It’s apples and oranges when it comes to duration. You may only spend 1-2 hours per day in a gym, while most persons are engaged  in work activities for 6-8 hours. Workouts are also broken up either by a fixed time or fixed set of reps. I think a major cause for Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) is simply engaging in the same task day after day for weeks and months on end. CrossFit is constantly varied, whereby it’s workouts eliminate the repetitive movements that induce such conditions.

The demographic of persons currently engaged in CrossFit is also of concern to me. Most CrossFitters at my gym have desk jobs and are not employed in professions which entail manually intensive labour. It seems that the target group that needs it the most may not be the ones hitting the gym, perhaps because they ‘get enough exercise at work’? This is all the more reason for employers to seek its infiltration in the workplace.

CrossFit is not a perfect ‘cure’ for all causes of workplace MSDs. Disorders resulting from fine motor movement, like carpel tunnel syndrome, may find little aid by this means. Additionally, I don’t think CrossFit addresses conditions induced by mechanical vibration such as Whole Body Vibration (WBV) or Hand Arm Vibration (HAV). In spite of this, knowledge on general body maintenance is still essential for general health and well being.

If the culture is shifted to encompass mobility as a functional part of manual labour it may mean we see airport baggage handlers stretching, or even using a foam roller before the start of their shift. It creates a funny visual, but if it means decreased loss time due to injury, I think it’s a well warranted ‘joke’. CrossFit already has an established link with the protective services in the USA, but what about broadening it’s scope to directly influence other sectors, OSHA perhaps?

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Tools commonly used for maintaining mobility: foam roller, resistance bands and an assortment of massage balls.

Examples of where the concepts can be applied

1. Construction-based tasks

Trainer and gym owner Mikhail Ragoonanan demonstrates key differences in lifting a ‘cement bag’ from the floor. The images on the left simulate proper form when performing a sandbag clean in the gym, while those of the right simulate what commonly occurs on a work site. A sand bag is a fair substitute to simulate this load, but there are key differences in form.

The bending of the legs, allowing allowing spinal alignment is desired and practiced in the gym. Clothing design is a major contributor in allowing bending at the hips, knees and ankles with ease. CrossFit athletes would also have been doing routine mobility exercises to maintain their ROM.

Jeans and high top sneakers or boots are typically worn on most construction sites. Even with a fairly decent ROM, clothing may contribute to improper lifting form. That coupled with the fact that most workers don’t have prior knowledge of form or mobility would result in lifts similar to that seen on the images on the right.

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While lifting with proper form in a gym is only done for a fraction of the time that a worker performs his task, we can easily see how the cumulative effect of the above mentioned factors can contribute to work related MSDs.

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2. Working at Height

This example focuses less on mobility and more on skill and strength. Occupations that would find such a skills essential may encompass utility lines men, window washers and persons working on scaffolding. Having this skill should be considered as a pre-requisite for such jobs, just as swimming is a pre-requisite to being a life guard. It can potentially safe your life.

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Here are my humble suggestions:

  1. Include CrossFit at company gyms or company wellness programs to improve the health of both clerical and technical workers.
  2. Include mobility as a recognised training component for worker groups engaged in manual handling tasks.
  3. Include an assessment of strength and mobility as part of a worker’s pre-employment medical.

Possible Benefits:

  1. Less loss time injury
  2. Less compensation claims
  3. Increased productivity
  4. Greater gender equality in the workplace, greater inclusion of women in manual handling tasks (CrossFit chicks are very strong 🙂 )

CrossFit is a growing community locally. To date there are 4 gyms (Boxes) in Trinidad. Feel free to check any of them out if you want to learn more about this type of training. The CrossFit Open has just finished, perhaps you may consider signing up for it next year!

I currently train at CrossFit Iron Chin in San Juan with trainer and gym owner Mikhail Ragoonan. Special thanks for Mik for letting me feature him and his gym in sharing my thoughts and ideas! You can also check out CrossFit 12-12-12, igone CrossFit and WeHeart CrossFit.

Hope I’ve given both the CrossFit and OSH communities something to think about.

Trinbago Coney Island- Part 1

Just this month, a friend and I visited Trinbago Coney Island, Chaguanas after work one day. We’re not usually paranoid people but we had some questions as to the safety of the rides. Now, before I get into trouble, nothing happened. To the best of our knowledge theme park equipment of this type is not manufactured locally and we could easily assume that it’s probably second-hand equipment. Additionally we’re not even sure who regulates and inspects this equipment before putting it into use locally. After some digging, I put together this 2-part post, in an attempt to answer some questions on what we thought were the major attractions. Part 1 covers the lower intensity rides i.e. Ferris Wheels, Flying Chairs, Bumper Cars, Go Karts and the  Bouncy House Zone. Part 2 will cover the higher intensity Vulcano, Tahtoo, Dancing Fly and Blue Shake rides.

Ferris Wheels

There were 2 Ferris Wheels at the park, the larger for adults and kids and the smaller for kids only. This was 1 of the 2 rides we rode.

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Large 8 carriage Ferris Wheel.

A Brazilian Ferris Wheel Manufacturer outlines the following guidance:

  • Visual inspection of oil levels in gear boxes with more frequent lubrication in tropical climates.
  • Avoid modifying structure by welding/making holes that may affect soundness of structure.
  • Look out for deformation, dents, bends cuts & cracks
  • Observe structural welds, beads, fittings and changes in cross section and discontinuities in general.
  • Condition of paint work, rust spots must be immediately attended to.

Additionally, there were barricades to restrict access  to the public from interacting with mechanical and moving parts of the both adult and kid ferris wheels.

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Small 5 carriage Ferris Wheel.

Flying Chairs

When the roof of this ride begins rotating these chair swings take flight. We didn’t see it in operation to observe how fast it spins and how high patrons are lifted. The Wisconsin Administrative Code states that chair swings shall be provided with crotch straps or an equivalent means of restraint for passengers, which can be seen in the photos below. Apart from this, I havn’t found too much documentation specific to chair swings, but the general design of amusement park rides should encompass analysis of materials and components utilized in manufacture, as well as a fail-safe measures. Pertinent to this type of ride also, may be consideration of out-of-balance testing to confirm strength and stability of the machinery with uneven loading as proposed by Malaysian guidelines.

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Adult Flying Chairs

12 children and 1 adult were injured due to mechanical failure of a rotating swing ride in 2013 according to USA Today and in 2008, a 43 year old man was hospitalized in when he was hurled out of his seat into a fence as reported by AJC.

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Kiddie Flying Chairs

Bumper Cars

The thrill of bumper car rides comes from, as the name suggests, bumping into other  cars. The exterior of these cars are padded to protect the vehicle and diffuse shock upon collision with other vehicles. The speed the cars travel are controlled and kept to a minimum, but still permits the driver to enjoy the jolt upon collision. Due to the jolts, 5-point safety harnesses are preferred over 3 point seat belts used in regular vehicles. Seat belts prevent the driver from ejecting from the seat or having to physically brace themselves due to sudden directional changes. It is interesting to note that the adult bumper cars my friend and I rode did not have seat belts…

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Kiddie Bumper Cars

Basic physics of a bumper car explains that it runs on electricity, carried by a pole on the back of the car that leads up to a suspended wire net above the riding area. This net is electrically charged and powers the cars. EC&M reports the death of 3 children in separate incidents due to accidental electrocution whereby a toddler, 8 and 14 year old came into contact with fences surrounding bumper car parks that became energised due to improper grounding. This reiterates the need for installation and inspection of such setups from competent personnel. Accidents due to electrical hazards have not been reported for users of the attraction but rather for spectators, however physical injury is labelled as the predominant injury for users. Thus far, the latter risk has been addressed as the Daily Mail has reported a ban in bumping into other patrons of this ride, as opposed to a total ban of the attraction in light of the former risk.

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Adult Bumper Cars-Roller Coaster in the background

Go Karts

At the time of our visit, the Go-Kart section wasn’t opened. To think because of that I didn’t even take a picture…whomp.

A Canadian Amusement Park Safety Regulation provide some detailed information on safety standards for go-karts:

Kart Design

  • Seat, back rest and leg area of every kart should be designed to retain occupants inside the kart in the event of a collision at front, rear or side of the kart.
  • Hot engine parts and moving/rotating parts of a kart are shielded to prevents burns or entanglement of occupant’s hair, hands or clothing.
  • Brakes are designed to enable driver weighing 90kg to stop from it’s max. speed within a 12m distance.
  • Brake and throttle should be foot operated, easily recognised as to their function, return automatically to a non-operational position when released.
  • Steering wheel, hub and exposed components between seat and steering wheel are padded and designed to minimize risk of injury to occupant in a collision, head rests and roll bars should also be padded.
  • Kart should have impact absorbing bumpers or body parts on front of kart.
  • Wheels should be enclosed or guarded so that one wheel cannot interlock with or ride over the wheels of another kart.
  • Fuel tanks should be designed and mounted so that the tank will not rupture of the kart rolls over.

Track Design

  • Track should have a hard smooth surface, provide road grip sufficient to enable kart to be driven safely at max speed and to stop within stopping distance and is in a state of good repair.
  • White/yellow lines should be used to demarcate inner and outer edges of the entire track.
  • Barriers along every outer edge of the track curve, between track and obstruction or hazard within 10m from the track and along every entry/exit point.
  • Barriers should be constructed to allow for kart colliding with it at max speed and safely coming to a complete stop, prevent kart from overturning or running over barrier and constructed of materials that will not readily ignite.
  • Barriers do not encroach onto spectator areas upon collision.
  • Track should be surrounded by a fence.

Other Considerations

  • 1 fire extinguisher to be kept in Pit Area and within 70m of every section of track.
  • Driver should have sufficient leg length to reach brake and throttle from drivers seat.
  • Hair longer than shoulder length should be tied and loose clothing secured.
  • Refuelling should occur at least 20m from public area.
  • Appropriate rules to be posted for public view.

Bouncy House Zone

At the time of our visit there wasn’t anyone in this area. The Inflatable Play Enterprise (TIPE) guidance on bouncy castles recognises the following hazards:

  • Instability and blowing away in windy conditions
  • Situations caused by a loss of pressure due to failure of fabric, loss of power to blower, litter blocking intake
  • Falls from the structure
  • Windows tearing or detaching
  • Tripping-especially over anchorages
  • Injury caused by boisterous behaviour, overcrowding or not separating smaller users from larger users.
  • Access to dangerous parts of machinery
  • Electrical hazards
  • Inadequate means of escape in the event of fire
  • Injury to users caused by inappropriate clothing
  • Suffocation
  • Entrapment

In response to these hazards, TIPE further details guidelines for: Design Considerations, Anchorage, Access or Egress, Blowers, Materials, Buying and Selling units, Inspection, Maintenance and Modification, Annual Inspection, Daily Checks, Safety and Operation.

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One of many inflatable play houses

Not mentioned in the list of recognized hazards are hygiene issues related to use of inflatables. A CNN Blog reports that the primary behavioural pattern of pre-school and elementary aged children  in conjunction with their underdeveloped immune systems make them especially susceptible to illness, injury and infection. Therefore maintaining and sanitising these high contact play areas is essential. The British Inflatable Hirers Alliance, suggests periodically vacuuming the interior as well as cleaning inflatable play devices with regular washing liquid, water and a sponge. If the inflatable is soaked in the rain, storing on a pallet would allow water to drain, as storing a wet inflatable can lead to a build up mildew which may eventually cause staining.

Due to the ‘bleached-out’ colour of the graphic art on some of the inflatables at the Park, it may be safe to assume that these units have been exposed to the elements quite a bit. My concerns centre around the park’s inspection regime of these structures in light of their exposure to the elements.

Seeing that the inflatables are positioned on hard surfaces, the landing pads present at the entrance to each ‘castle’ is a good idea. However, the carpeting in the ATV course appears to be loose, even exposing an underlying wire, my concern here is the possibility of the carpet snagging on the ATV wheels, perhaps even the cord.

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Kiddie ATVs

Of particular concern is the placement of the ‘lighting tower’ in the Bouncy House Zone as seen in the video below. I can understand the convenience of this location as it may be a cost saving measure to utilise 1 tower to provide lighting for this area. There exists evidence of the structure being anchored to the ground, though I’m not exactly sure how, as mulch covered the area. I also appreciate the white picket fence as a measure of access control, but neither its height nor its proximity to the scaffolding prevent any unsupervised child from thinking it’s a jungle gym.  Additionally, there was no signage to give caution to users in this area, or perhaps not to raise undue alarm. Granted that all these controls are adequate on their own, its proximity to the Kiddie ATV course also contributes to my unease. Its position lines one of the bends of the inflatable ATV track and with the slower speed of these ATVs, collision is less likely to occur, but then again children are using this track and their drivings skills are not as developed…..so yes I think the possibility of collisions with the inflatable barricades are real. As such, questions about the integrity of the inflatable when a collision occurs may need to consider the possibility of users crashing into the lighting tower.

Additionally the Kiddie Bumper Boat area did not seem to be in use, the bottom of the pool was a bit dirty. Possibly the same cleaning regime suggested for the other inflatables could apply to this area. Ohio law for amusement rides stipulates that at least 1 of 2 bacterial standards for fecal coliform or E. Coli needs to be met in addition to maintaining free chlorine levels at least at 1ppm for aquatic rides of this type. If indeed it wasn’t in use at the time,  it may have been a good idea to cordoned it off from the public, with the appropriate signage. The storage of the unused electrical equipment could have also been improved (see picture below).

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Kiddie Bumper Boat area

Even amusement park equipment is well maintained, caution still needs to be exercised. A US news agency advises that the patrons should ensure that ride operators are taking care to ensure riders’ safety, paying close attention when the ride is in motion and observing restrictions due to rider size.  One area of concern I identified was a possible language barrier between the Spanish-speaking operators and local residents, limiting their ability to effectively communicate with patrons. Added to this, EHS Today suggests that stipulated height requirements for rides may give a false sense of security, especially if your child is tall for their age. It’s really meant to filter out children who are too young for the intensity of the ride etc, as age has a part to play in behaviour and awareness.

Being vigilant for ourselves and especially our kids is important. The purpose of this post is to encourage patrons to be aware of the mechanical functionality of these rides and to use this info to protect themselves and their loved ones while using facilities of this type. It also aims to reinforce the responsibility of owners and operators of such establishments to ensure the provision of a safe environment to their patrons.

Hope I’ve given you something to think about. Click here for Part 2!

 

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