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Industrial Hazards

Industrial hazards consist of four principle hazards. This is because industries employ many different processes involving a wide range of different raw materials, intermediates, waste products and final products. The hazards encountered are fire, explosion, toxic release and environmental damage.

Fire: This is the most frequent of the hazards however the consequences are generally less.  The effect of fire on people usually takes the form of skin burns and is usually dependant on the exposure time and the intensity of the heat. Fire can also produce toxic fumes like Acrolein, Carbon monoxide and Cyanides. Physical structures can be damaged either by the intensity of the heat or combustion. It may also have an effect on essential services like power and instrumentation which can cause an escalation of the incident

Explosion: Explosions are usually heard from far away as a ‘bang’. This is the result of a shock wave. This overpressure can kill people but usually the indirect effects of collapsing buildings, flying glass and debris causes far more loss of life and severe injuries. There are different types of explosions which include gas explosions and dust explosions. Gas explosions occur when a flammable gas mixes with air and is exposed to an ignition source. Dust explosions occur when flammable solids, especially metals, in the form of fine powders are intensively mixed with air and ignited.

Toxic/Chemical release:  Sudden releases of toxic vapours have the potential to cause death and severe injuries several miles from the release point. They are carried by water and air. Their release into public sewage systems, rivers, canals and other water courses, either directly or through contaminated water used in fire fighting can result in serious threat to public. The number of casualties depends on the weather conditions, population density in the path of the cloud and the effectiveness of the emergency arrangements.

Environmental Damage:  As well as having the potential for causing injury, loss of life and damage to property, the hazards of fire, explosion and toxic releases may pose a severe threat to the environment. Release of other substances, not directly toxic to humans can cause major pollution problems. It is becoming increasingly recognized that damage to natural resources such as plant and animal life can have serious long term consequences. E.g. destruction of trees is increasing the effect of global warming and extinction of animals are severely disrupting food webs and causing an increase in pests.


List and discussion of Vulnerabilities
·  Improper location of Communities
Communities like California and Couva are located too close to the Point Lisas industrial estate. If there is an explosion or chemical release, there communities will be severely affected potentially with many deaths and structural damage

·  Poor developmental planning in Point Lisas
Industries in Point Lisas Industrial estate are located in such a way that it is easy for one failure to cause a domino effect e.g. there is a methanol plant situated approximately 150m for a power generation plant. This power plant can produce a very easy source of ignition for any possible leak that may occur from the methanol plant.

·  Lack of knowledge
Many persons in the country and primarily persons close to the industrial estate are unaware of the actual dangers they face on a daily basis. Although it has been said may times, persons continue to ignore this because a disaster of catastrophic scale has not occurred before at the estate and companies boast of the low probability of such an incident. From a domestic point of view, person using everyday product like degreasers, disinfectants, bleach, lubricants (WD40, PR40), paints, thinners, acids (concrete cleaner) must be careful as most of these products affect the skin

·  Lack of mitigation measures
From findings it has been proven that the mitigation measures put in place on the estate with respect to the ammonia plants are insufficient (Persad 2003).  There exists no specialized medical facility to deal with industrial cases. Even though there is the Couva Medical facility nearby, this is occupied by persons from that area. Fishing villages

·  Lack of evacuation expertise
It was found that the emergency response system at Point Lisas was inadequate to handle industrial emergencies as there were a lack of specialized medical personnel as well as triage equipment and facilities. (Persad, Deenesh 1996)

·  Transportation risks
Many chemicals, including flammable hydrocarbons are transported on the roadway alongside other vehicles and pedestrians. This poses a risk of explosion, fire, blast fragments and other harmful injury to bystanders, if an incident was to happen.


How to reduce risks

  • Design and Pre-modification review: this involves proper layout, facilities and material selection. Research should be done try to substitute extremely toxic chemicals with safer ones. Less chemicals should be stored; a reduction in inventory will automatically mean less damage if an accident is to occur.
  • Chemical Risk Assessment: Chemicals are assessed based on compatibility, flammability, toxicity, explosion hazards and storage.
  • Process Safety Management: HAZOP studies, reliability assessment of process equipment, incorporating safety trips and interlocks, scrubbing system, etc. should be done before effecting major process changes. Management should try to develop a culture of safety in industrial organizations
  • Safety Audits: Periodical assessment of safety procedures and practices, performance of safety systems and gadgets along with follow up measures should be carried out.
  • Emergency Planning: A comprehensive risk analysis indicating the impact of consequences and specific written down and practiced emergency procedures along with suitable facilities should be done. This can be done by communities as well as national or regional corporation authorities
  • Training: Proper training of employees and protective services should be done.
  • Special times and escorts for dangerous vehicles
  • Public Cooperation on the road: the public should cooperate with the police and any tankers and heavy duty vehicles to avoid accidents and allow for the shortest possible on road time for dangerous vehicles.
  • Public awareness: Everyone should be aware of potential disasters and informed of protective and safety measures. MSDS sheets should be readily available to the public. Cautions must be placed to standout on dangerous household and car care products.
  • Proper storage of hazardous Materials: All chemicals and hazardous materials should be kept at proper storage temperature and in locked cupboards away from children and animals. Also, if reactive substances are stored, it should be stored is a watertight container.


  • Farabi, Hamid. "Safety: A major objective in the Chemical and Petroleum Industry." 1992.
  • Mannan, Sam. Lee's Loss Prevention. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann, 2005.
  • Persad, Deenesh. "A Synopsis of Disaster Management and Lessons Learnt on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate." 2003.
  •  Persad, Deenesh. "Disaster Response Ammonia Spill." 1996.

Further Reading :


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