Hazardous Materials Management: Incident Action Plan

Introduction

An incident action plan refers to a “Specific Emergency Response Plan used to outline the activities to be taken in the event of an emergency (in) response to a hazardous material” (Gantt, 2009, p. 45). According to Russell & Simpson (2010), the plan is used to identify possible hazards and the operations that should be carried out during such an incident. As compared to the Site Safety Plan, an incident action plan focuses on the emergent stage of an incident and is less detailed (Borgen & Maglio, 2007). The current paper outlines an incident action plan fashion along these lines. The plan is based on the three job hazards identified in Week Four’s “Risk Assessment Plan.” The three job hazards are discussed in detail below.

Incident Action Plan

The first job hazard outlined in the risk assessment plan involves mixing or combining gases to come up with a more powerful gaseous product. Gas mixing is also referred to as gas blending. It is the process of filling diving cylinders with such gases as heliox, trimix, and nitrox (Wilsong & Schwarzman, 2009). Filling cylinders with gases is a dangerous undertaking. The process exposes both the diver and the filler to two main forms of risks. The first risk is associated with the outbreak of fire considering that oxygen, a highly combustible gas, is used in the process. In addition, the gases are subjected to high pressures, which put the workers at risk of a gas explosion. When mixing the gases, the individuals have to take into consideration the depth of the intended dive. The concentration of oxygen in the cylinder should be balanced to ensure it is not too lean or too much. It is noted that in cases where the concentration of oxygen is very low, the diver may suffer from hypoxia. Consequently, the diver may lose consciousness, which is critical considering that they are underwater. On the other hand, if the concentration of oxygen in the cylinder is too high, it may lead to oxygen toxicity. In addition, the persons mixing the gases should regulate the concentration of other gases, such as helium and nitrogen. It is important to check the concentration of such gases to protect the diver from such risks as decompression sickness and nitrogen narcosis (Valeries, 2012).

The second hazard that was identified in the risk assessment plan was quite similar to the first one. The similarity between the two is evident given that both of them involved mixing chemicals. Some of the chemicals I was dealing with were naturally hazardous. The risk posed by others increased tremendously when they were mixed, ground, or heated. In some cases, the mere transfer of a chemical compound from one container to another poses a hazard. As a result, it is very important to be aware of the dangers posed by different chemicals. It is equally important to know how to respond in the event of an incident (Wilsong & Schwarzman 2009). Some of the accidents likely to occur when mixing chemicals include outbreaks of fire and gas explosions. Other possible accidents include the release of harmful airborne particles and gases, as well as the splashing of toxic, corrosive, or hot liquid. The consequences of such accidents range from simple injuries to intoxication, ulcers, and death. Some of the injuries caused by these accidents can alter one’s genetic make- up, which may affect the individual’s future generations (Russell & Simpson, 2010).

The third hazard identified in the risk assessment plan was that of dust in the construction site during demolition. The dust has many effects on the health of the individual, including skin irritation and cancer. The hazard depends on the degree and nature of exposure to dust (Valeries, 2012). It is important to note that dust is not an obvious hazard, but the effects of the fibers and particles, which are usually invisible, may take several years to manifest. Chronic lung conditions caused by exposure to dust may lead to disabilities, given that some of them are permanent. As a result of this, it is important to identify the various risks and related incidents and respond appropriately. Unlike a factory, a construction site has many workplaces. Each workplace has several portable power tools, which increase the amount of dust in the factory.

Some of the main sources of dust in the site include demolitions, grit blasting, removal of asbestos, working with loose powders, such as gypsum and cement, as well as sanding and cutting wood. Other sources of dust include sweeping workplaces, cleaning out ducts during commissioning, removing lead paint, cutting stones, and other maintenance works (Tang, Wang, Qi & Wang, 2012). In the workplace where I was situated, the main source of dust was demolitions. One of the major factors increasing the risks associated with demolitions includes high winds, which affect both the workers and residents of neighboring regions. To reduce the impact of dust, all the workers in the site were required to put on APR systems. The construction company settled for explosive demolition methods, as opposed to mechanical or hand techniques, which would expose the workers to a lot of dust. Although explosive methods could potentially increase the risk of dust pollution to the surrounding community, the effects were minimal because the neighborhood was sparsely populated.

According to Gantt (2009), the first step in the incident action plan is to respond to the incident. In the first two cases where I was in direct contact with gases and chemicals, one is supposed to keep a distance from the point of explosion or fire. The second action is to identify a safe area where equipment used in responding to the incident is set. The safe area should be located at a considerable distance from the working area, such that the response personnel can access it and respond appropriately without exposing themselves to the hazard. In all three cases, the individuals present during the incident, or the response personnel, should avoid becoming part of the problem. They should maintain a safe distance until the degree of emergency is established.

The second step is to ‘size up’ the situation. Sizing up means mentally evaluating the incident and all the issues involved (Gantt, 2009). If you were not there during the incident, receive a briefing from those who came arrived before you. Gather as much information as possible from those who were present. Consider the size of the damage and the level of emergency to determine the kind of personnel required to attend to the incident. Some of the facts that should be established include the time of day, weather, and in cases of a medical emergency, the number of people involved. It is also important to establish whether or not there is fire and if evacuation is necessary. One should establish the ‘possibilities and probabilities’ of the situation.

Possibilities and probabilities include determining whether or not there is any material that needs to be moved from the area surrounding the incident, the direction of the spill in case of chemicals, and whether or not other people beyond the incident area are exposed to the risk. It also involves determining whether or not building evacuation is necessary, and the effects of weather. One also needs to evaluate their current situation. It involves determining the effects of immediate action in solving the problem and the safety of their current location.

The last part of sizing up the problem involves evaluating the available resources. The resources include the number of available responders, the additional resources needed, the time needed to acquire additional resources, and whether or not the police need to the involved.

The third step is to assume command and direct the incident. It includes informing the response team that one is taking command of the situation and the exact location of the incident. It also involves confirming the kind of incident and emergency, as well as announcing where the safe area is and instructing all units to move there until the plan of action is provided (Gantt, 2009).

Gantt (2009) identifies some of the most common mistakes that incident commanders (ICs) make. The first is failure to plan. The incident commander should first determine whether they have jurisdiction over the emergency site or not. They should plan with all possible eventualities in mind. The IC should be aware of the fact that a hazardous situation may occur when it is least expected. Proper planning means proper preparedness. The second is the failure to take charge. The IC should be a person capable of demonstrating leadership and one who has earned the confidence of the followers. He should be more than a manager with subordinates and more of a leader with followers. If leadership is weak, there will be confusion during the emergency, which may lead to unnecessary damages. The leader should be able to make informed decisions and stick to them.

The third is the failure to understand the nature of the emergency. As the leader, the IC is expected to comprehend the scope and nature of the incidence. One should be able to provide a reason for most, if not all, possible incidents at the workplace. Such a basic understanding makes it easy to come up with a plan of action and respond as soon as possible. The fourth mistake is basing decisions on emotions as opposed to facts. During an emergency, everyone wants to act and assist. Nonetheless, emergencies can make people behave irrationally and illogically. During an emergency, the IC should be the soberest person of all. They should give directions without getting caught up in the emotional heat of the moment. Chaos is common during incidents and the commander is charged with the duty of enhancing tranquility, clear-mindedness, and making sure that decisions are made on the basis of accurate and reliable information. One way to avoid damages brought about by the flaring of emotions is to take the first few moments to quickly learn about the situation before responding.

The fifth mistake is the failure to expect changes. The average IC comes up with a plan of action believing that it will fit snuggly into the situation at hand. An excellent IC is aware of the fact that situations are dynamic. As such, he comes up with alternative plans of action as the team implements the first one. The benefit of designing alternatives is that once in a while, initial plans will tend to fail. Sixth is the failure to set up effective communication channels. The IC should ensure that all modes of communication are up and running. Poor communication is one of the most dangerous things that can happen at an incident site. The IC should ensure that all the main players are communicating with each other and that the flow of information is not hampered in any way. Finally, most ICs do not accept blame. The IC should understand that they are totally in charge and if one of the team members makes a mistake, he should take the blame and learn from it. Experience is the best teacher, but there are no guarantees that experiences will always be positive. However, whether good or bad, they help in making informed decisions in the future.

Conclusion

The potential hazards in the first two workplaces were largely similar. In the third workplace, the main hazard was dust brought about by demolitions. In all three workplaces, the three steps of the incident action plan include responding to the incident, sizing up the emergency, assuming control, and providing direction.

References

Borgen, W. A., & Maglio, A. T. (2007). Putting action back into action planning: Experiences of career clients. Journal of Employment Counseling, 44(4), 173-184.

Gantt, P. (2009). Hazardous materials: Regulations, response, and site operations. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Russell, D., & Simpson, J. (2010). Emergency planning and preparedness for the deliberate release of toxic industrial chemicals. Clinical Toxicology, 48(3), 171-176.

Tang, P., Wang, H., Qi, C., & Wang, J. (2012). Anytime heuristic search in temporal HTN planning for developing incident action plans. AI Communications, 25(4), 321-342.

Valeries, B. J. (2012). Why is it so difficult to choose safer alternatives for hazardous chemicals? Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(7), A280-A283.

Wilsong, M. P., & Schwarzman, G. (2009). Towards a new U.S. Chemicals Policy: Rebuilding the foundation to advance new science, green chemistry, and environmental health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(8), 345-367.

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