HARMATTAN SAFETY

WHAT IS HARMATTAN?

 The Harmattan is a cold-dry and dusty trade wind, blowing over the West African subcontinent.

This northeasterly wind blows from the Sahara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March.

It consists of fine dust particles between 0.5 and 10 micrometres.

In a nutshell, harmattan is a Natural Hazard which induces desert-like weather conditions: it lowers the humidity, dissipates cloud cover, prevents rainfall formation and sometimes creates big clouds of dust or sand which can even result in violent dust-storms or sandstorms

 

RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH HARMATTAN

  1. Fire Outbreaks:

Fire outbreaks constitute one of the common risks during harmattan; quite a lot of fire outbreaks are often recorded since there is dry wind, which makes it easy for fire to spread at the slightest ignition causing destruction of lives and property.

One other source of harmattan fire is petrol kept at homes, offices and such other unusual places during this season.

  1. Poor Visibility:

The harmattan haze can reduce visibility. Drivers beware!

Pilots should also take note that visibility is reduced due to high concentration of dust particles in the air which may sometimes impede air travel.

All Drivers are advised to be conscious of the foggy weather condition, early morning and late evening mists which are usually associated with the harmattan season.’

  1. Health Hazards:

Allergies:

  • This is the period when the Asthmatic people suffer more crises.
  • Many also suffer pneumonia and bronchitis, especially the very young and the aged.
  • The skin is usually dry with accompanying cracking of the lips, sole of the feet and even the skin itself.
  • The eyes are directly exposed. Thus itching, foreign body sensation and redness may be common especially in individuals with allergic eye disease.
  • The dry, cold and dusty wind associated with Harmattan also triggers sickle cell crises in affected individuals.
  • Another condition that can be brought about by the harmattan period is nose bleeding because of dry mucus lining of the nose and a lot of nose picking.
  • Prolonged daily exposure to cold weather is an open invitation to diseases like rheumatism, pneumonia and arthritis; and, in severe cases, death from hypothermia.
  • The epidemic of meningococcal meningitis is usually experienced between February to May in the ‘meningitis belt’, northern Nigeria inclusive, is an aftermath of Harmattan.
  • Loss of water (dehydration) is very prevalent
  • Throat gets sore, sneezing is frequent, frequent headaches, sputum in your saliva because of catarrh and then cold and over time, cough. All these symptoms for just one season!

Food borne diseases:

Because of the dusty atmosphere, there is need to imbibe healthy food preservation culture especially food hawkers such as fruits, vegetables etc to prevent food borne diseases.

People can also contract gastroenteritis or infectious diarrhea during the season because of scarcity of water. Environmental hygiene is usually poor whenever there is inadequate water supply.

BENEFITS OF HARMATTAN

The Harmattan, despite its adverse health effects, is not without some benefits to man. For example,

  • The low temperature associated with it is unfavorable for breeding of mosquitoes thus reducing the incidence of malaria.
  • The cool wind also brings relief from the oppressive heat. It also makes for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets!
  • While the season lasts, couples are ‘inspired’ to cling more closely together, cuddling like new newborns at nights.
  • During harmattan period, faces are smooth and acne free? Ladies can now use as much make up as they want without the heat melting it down their faces.

SAFETY TIPS DURING HARMATTAN

  1. Implement preventive fire safety measures; no bush burning, prevent electrical sparks and avoid indiscriminate storage of fuel etc
  1. Drivers should drive with lights on low beam in view of reflections from high beams that heighten poor visibility during this period.
  1. Asthmatic patients should reduce exposure to the dusty atmosphere in addition to having their inhaler with them all the time.
  1. Keep your skin healthy by topical application of oily creams and weather friendly dressing.
  1. Avoid excessive use of antiseptic soaps; the use of very strong antiseptics tend to make the skin to dry up
  1. Proper eye hygiene in form of washing with clean water, reduced exposure to dust and wearing of protective spectacles should be encouraged
  1. Patients with sickle cell anaemia should be vigilant and keep warm as much as possible to prevent crises.
  1. Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating.
  1. It is unhealthy for people to patronize all manner of food hawkers throughout the season.
  1. Our drinking water containers should be properly covered.
  1. Routine Meningitis immunizations should be in top gear around this period.
  1. Lots of fluid should be taken to compensate for loss of water from the body into the atmosphere through respiration, perspiration and urination.

…Wish you healthy and safe Harmattan period

Picture credit: www.premiumtimesng.com

Incident Investigation and Reporting

Safety Professionals around the world have made all the noise about incidence investigation. Now the question is, does it make sense, or are they simply some set of professionals who want to be loud? It simple; they are RIGHT.

So many disasters have occurred in Nigeria and one wonders why similar unfavorable events keep happening. Professionals have narrowed the cause down to the lack of Incident Investigation and Reporting culture. When we consider the consequence of incident investigation and reporting, the lives we have lost in this country to avoidable Plane crash incidents, auto crash, inferno, electrocution, medical emergencies, to mention a few, it further corroborates the need to find a swift solution to reoccurrence of similar types of accidents.

For the sakes of non-Safety Professionals, an incident as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an unplanned event that interrupts the completion of an activity, and that may (or may not) include injury or property damage. When it does not involve injury or property damage, it is called ‘a near miss’ and ‘Accident’ when injuries and/or property damage is involved. It is however clear that all accident can be classified as an incident, but not all incidents is an accident, because it could be a near miss.

However, even near misses must be investigated and reported to prevent them from escalating into accidents. The term incident is also used more in place of accident to reduce tension during communication.

Having said this, a look at the history of plane crash incidents in Nigeria in the last decade is a good case study to achieve the purpose of this article. Not like there had not been Plane crash during periods that pre-dates my bracket of case study, but for brevity.

On 22nd October, 2005 a Nigerian Bellview Airline Boeing 737 airliner with 117 people on board crashed and disintegrates in flames shortly after take-off from Lagos. Unfortunately, there were no survivors. On 10th December, 2005 (The same year), a Nigerian Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashed in Port Harcourt, killing all 103 on board. Most on board were school children going home for Christmas. Barely a year later, precisely 17th September, 2006 a Nigerian 18-seater Dornier 228 Air Force transport plane, carrying 15 senior army officers and three crew members crashed leaving only three survivors that sustained serious injuries.

On June 3, 2012, a Dana Airlines Flight 9J 992 carrying 153 passengers on board crashed at a residential area of Iju-Ishaga, Lagos. No one survived the crash, which also claimed lives of residents and properties. On 12th August 2015, a Bristow Helicopter plunged into Oworonshoki Lagoon and 3 were confirmed dead, while 4 were injured. The question is ‘What role would proper investigation and reporting have played to prevent re-occurrence of these accidents?’

The primary and most important reason for accidents to be investigated and reported is to find out the CAUSE and PREVENT similar incidents in the future. Other reasons include fulfillment of legal requirements, to process compensations, to determine compliance with applicable safety standards, and to determine the cost of an accident.

Could it have been a possibility that if these events of Plane Crash had been properly investigated and the findings reported and perhaps published, we may not have had such long list of reoccurrence? From Safety perspectives, the answer is YES.

Accidents/Near misses are inevitable, albeit we must ensure they don’t, but what we do with the experience will go a long way to determine if there will be reoccurrence.

From history, most investigations have revealed the ‘Human Error’ factor largely contributing to occurrence of accidents. An authority, who understands the mode of operation of the elements involved in the accident is the right personnel to anchor an investigation because he is expected to know the right questions to ask that will lead to the right answers, which will eventually reveal the root cause. This is not applicable to events of plane crash alone, but every work place.

Ensure a culture of incident investigation and reporting. Remember, when near misses are reported, you are saving lives of potential victims of an incident.

Reducing the TB burden in Nigeria

 

Presently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Nigeria as having the highest tuberculosis (TB) prevalence rate in Africa and 11th among the 22 high burden countries in the world that account for 80 per cent of global TB burden with a total of 180,000 cases occurring annually in Nigeria.

The burden of the disease in Nigeria is further worsened by the negative effects of the interactions between TB (an air-borne infectious disease) and HIV, leading to the deaths of 27,000 persons annually. On the link between TB and HIV, Dr Sunday Amosun, a Consultant with the Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, stated: “Tuberculosis is caused by micro bacteria and it is common among those whose immunity is down; that is why it is common among those who have HIV because what HIV does is to knock out all the immune system.”

Indeed, TB has been variously described as the most common life-threatening disease and the number one killer among ‘people living with HIV’.

Due to the seriousness of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared tuberculosis (TB), a global emergency in 1993. It remains one of the world’s major causes of illness and death.

In Nigeria, tackling the disease by health authorities to reduce the TB burden in the country, has been a herculean task. Several factors mitigate against curbing the disease, which include unhygienic environment, lack of drugs, stigmatization, poor health facilities among others. While decrying the TB prevalence in the country, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), last year in a statement blamed the high rate on the unavailability of drugs and modern treatment facilities to treat the disease in the country.

“It’s due to poor availability of microscopy (smear), culture, drug susceptibility centre and presence of only one national reference laboratory at the national tuberculosis and leprosy control programme headquarters in Kaduna,” it stated.

Statistics show the disease mostly affects those between 25-34 years (36.6 per cent) with Lagos, Kano, Oyo and Benue states being the states with the highest level of infections. Ekiti and Bayelsa States have the least cases of infections.

People with HIV/AIDS are mostly vulnerable to the disease with 26 per cent of them infected with 3.1 per cent of this number infected with the Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

The TB burden is compounded by a high prevalence of HIV in the country which stands at about 4.1% in general population.

The prevalence of HIV among TB patients increased from 2.2 per cent in 1991 to 19.1 per cent in 2001 and 25 per cent in 2010. This indicates that the TB situation in the country is HIV-driven.

Benue for instance, has a high TB burden which is attributable to a high HIV prevalence.

Poor hygiene, overcrowding

Many reasons have been adduced by health experts for the high TB rate in Nigeria. Speaking on this, Dr Dan Gadzama, Consultant, Primary Health Board, Abuja, said:

“It is commonly and easily transmitted in overcrowded environment where people have no proper ventilation, poorly ventilated areas. A bacterium causes the disease known as tuberculosis. It is a lung disease just like others. There are infective and non-infective lung diseases. There is asthma, bronchiolitis and others. Tuberculosis is very common and comes about through micro bacteria.

“The commonness symptom is whooping cough; it is common in children and elderly because of their low immunity and people with it tend to sweat quite a lot in the night even when the weather is cold. And then there is also weight loss.

The elderly for instance, their immunity is low and for those in prison too, it is easy for them to contact it because of poor ventilation and overcrowded living conditions.

Symptoms of TB include night sweats, chronic cough, weight loss among others according to Amosun: “If someone also have chronic all night sweat with chronic cough for like three months and within that period loses weight seriously, then he or she has likely contacted tuberculosis. Those are the pointers. At such time, tests must be done immediately.”

To prevent TB, he advises people to avoid, “overcrowded places, stop sharing of utensils, discourage people from coughing and spewing sputum all over the place because the bacteria is normally inside sputum. When it dries up, the wind blows it everywhere. And then someone else may inject it.”

“Many people may actually have contacted it, but it is not active because the body immunity is high.

“Tuberculosis was almost eliminated but because of HIV, it became more common, noted Gadzama, adding: “That is because, HIV enhances tuberculosis; what happens usually is that when someone is infected with tuberculosis, it goes into the system and becomes dormant for sometime. But once immunity is low either due to HIV, malnutrition or cancer, the tuberculosis will then come up strong.”

Presently, despite some efforts being made to curb the disease, there are fears in some quarters that Nigeria is lagging behind in all areas of rolling back the disease and there are doubts that the country will be unable to achieve the goal of 50% reduction in the prevalence and death from TB compared with the 1990 baseline by 2015 and eliminating TB as a public health problem by 2050.”

WHO estimates that 210,000 new cases of all forms of TB occurred in the country in 2010, equivalent to 133/100,000 population.

There were an estimated 320,000 prevalent cases of TB in 2010, equivalent to 199/100,000 cases. There were 90,447 TB cases notified in 2010 with 41, 416 (58%) cases as new smear positives, and a case detection rate of 40 per cent.

83% of cases notified in 2009 were successfully treated.

The main goal of Nigeria’s TB program is to halve the TB prevalence and death rates by 2015.

TB death rates have however, declined from 11 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2010.

 

Credit: The Nation

Reward for their safety exploits

Individuals and organisations whose activities increased awareness about Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) have been rewarded with plaques and certificates of excellence. It was at the maiden Nigerian Safety Award organised by Safety Record magazine held at the Oriental Hotels Lagos.

The aim of the award was to increase safety awareness among the citizens and at work places.

Industry professionals from local and multinational companies witnessed the event, where HSE practitioners and companies were honoured for initiating strategic actions and policies to prevent work-place accidents and occupational hazards.

The event began with a red-carpet session, where health and safety professionals interacted with the media on their activities in the past years.

Later, members of panel of judges, who are HSE experts from various professional bodies, including Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals (ISPON) and Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria (SOEHPON), among others, arrived.

Each of the judges has more than 20 years of experience in health, safety and environment.

The chairman of the judges’ panel, Dr. Bamisayo Olagbemi, said the award came at a time statutory framework was needed to revive safety culture in the country. Recognising efforts made by safety practitioners to reduce hazards in work places and public spaces, he said, would encourage more individual actions and organisational co-operation.

“There is power in recognition and compensation. If efforts of people and companies are being recognised and rewarded as it is being done today, such gesture will encourage them to initiate more actions to change the thinking of people and bring culture of safety to their consciousness,” he said.

Olagbemi, a public health and industrial hygiene expert, described the entries submitted by companies and the safety practitioners as impressive, noting that awareness about safety in industries could improve steadily if companies’ managements were rewarded for their support and co-operation.

The publisher of Safety Record, Alhaji Lateef Alebiosu, said the award would sustain the successes recorded and raise safety awareness among workers, with the aim of ensuring accident-free society. The honour would not only strengthen companies’ safety policies, Alebiosu said, it would also encourage actions that would enhance public safety and reduce the rate of occupational accidents recorded yearly.

He said increased awareness about safety and occupational hazards had caused government and companies’ managements to introduce drastic regulations to reduce rate of accidents in public space and industries.

He said: “Safety awareness has picked up in the country in period, compared with what we used to have some 20 years back. We still want to push up the level of awareness to ensure that everybody, including school children, housewives, market women, drivers, industry professionals and the road users, is conscious of the need to maintain safety in all endeavours.”

Highpoint of the event was presentation of awards, during which individuals and several organisations were adjudged to be the best in different fields.

Oando Nigeria Plc won the Best Practice in Oil and Gas (Upstream) Award, Exxon Mobil was adjudged the best in downstream sector, while Ikeja Electric won the award for the Best HSE Practice in Power Sector.

Also, Engr. Jamiu Badmos and Mrs Monica Nwosu won the awards for Health and Safety Champion. Many others, including organisations, were given commendation awards.

Badmos described the award as a reward for his professionalism, saying the feat would challenge him to do more to ensure safety in public arena and work places.

 

 

Credit: The Nation