Rethinking urban transportation systems

Safecity SDG 11 7

I invite you to a week long discussion on safety in urban transportation systems on Twitter as a part of a month long discussion on Sustainable Development Goal no. 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities. Follow @pinthecreep on Twitter for the discussion. I’ll be curating this week again. I welcome you all.

This is a part of Safecity‘s discussion on safe and sustainable cities. For the entire month of April, Safecity is making a case for women’s safety in our cities and communities – one of the targets of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As a part of this worldwide effort, we are focusing on Goal 11 – ‘Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. I curate Safecity’s Twitter account this week again with a focus on urban transportation systems. I’ll also be conducting a Twitter chat on safe cycling in Indian cities on 21st April 2016, Thursday, 9PM IST/ 11:30 AM EST. Save the date!

Twitter chat cycling (1)

Join me with Safecity for a discussion on Safe and Sustainable Cities

For the entire month of April, Safecity is making a case for safety, especially women’s safety in our cities and communities – one of the targets of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As a part of this worldwide effort, we are focusing on Goal 11 – ‘Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.

Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation) is a platform, founded in 2012, that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.

Come join me with Safecity for a discussion on safe and sustainable cities!

I curate Safecity’s Twitter account this week again for the third time, for an exchange of thoughts, a debate, new perspectives, and most importantly to know more about what it takes to make our cities safer for all. I discuss this with a focus on ‘Omission of women in urban planning’. I’ll also be conducting a Twitter chat concerning safety in India’s 100 smart cities on 8th April 2016 9 PM IST/11:30 PM EST. Save the date!

Twitter chat (1)

I’ve never discussed this on my blog before, therefore a background is called for. Somewhere in August 2014 and also in October 2015 I’ve had a chance to be a , where I was able to engage the audience in different perspectives on how different things connected to women’s safety. There was a theme for every week – ranging from – how involvement of women in the environmental movement will help us find and implement solutions to our environmental crisis, women in STEM, awareness through art, role of government and laws for women’s safety, how the changing environmental conditions affect women in particular, with respect to energy, water and climate change, gender gap and sustainability, the role of media and advertising in women empowerment or the lack of it, role of comedy and feminism in women’s safety, an unbiased look at violence against both men and women, women in waste management and the safety issues related to it, how technology, science and education can help bridge the gender gap and how it is possible, and gender issues in sustainable development and how the world is resolving them. I even conducted a Twitter chat on #SaferCities for female tourists/commuters.

Following are the themes discussed with Safecity’s followers in detail:

Greener world with women

Science & Technology

Art and women

Ideas for womens’ safety (IDEO)

Food for thought


Government and laws

Gender gap and sustainability

  • Do you know any organizations that provide women what they need to be a part of the process towards sustainable development?
  • One such organization is the UN. One of UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is #genderequality. What do we need to reach this goal? 1/2
  • Let’s start with these three things: 1. access to education and training 2. information and technologies 3. decision-making. What else? 2/2
  • Let’s discuss how the changing environmental conditions affect women in particular, with respect to energy, water and climate change.
  • Indoor smoke from solid fuel causes chronic diseases and cancer in women. Does LPG Subsidy Surrender Campaign help? Your thoughts. #giveitup
  • Indoor smoke from solid fuels affects women and children to a higher degree than men. Do you know any innovations sprouting out of this need?
  • Women in India spend 150 million work days every year fetching and carrying water via @UN_Water #WaterforWomen
  • Women in Hubli-Dharwad in India have to wait up to 10 days for water via @UN_Water #WaterforWomen @nextdrop has a solution.
  • Why #climatechange is a women’s rights issue? 1/3
  • Women constitute majority of world’s poor. More dependent for their livelihood on natural resources threatened by #climatechange. 2/3
  • How can women help in climate change mitigation and adaption? Can we use their unique knowledge on local ecosystems? 3/3

Role of media in women empowerment

  • The False Mirror: Representation of Women in Indian Advertising
  • Are Men The Latest Victims Of Media Misrepresentation?
  • Share with us the advertisement that you have seen has been designed to deceive people and how.
  • Pro-women Twitter activism, another media influencing the gender equation #leanin #changetheratio #girlsrising #womenshould #bringourgirlsback #wearesilent Add some more?
  • Pro-men Twitter activism  #YesAllMen #NotAllMen #stopmensabuse Add some more?
  • Here’s one more: #ILookLikeAnEngineer ‘I Look Like an Engineer’ Campaign Is Hitting the Highway in Silicon Valley
  • Women professionals r under-represented in news or stereotypically portrayed whn they r included. Do u agree?
  • “In the fight 4 TV Rating Points we r losing out on constructive debates and awareness programmes tht TV can offer.” ½
  • What kind of constructive debates and awareness programmes do you think the TV can offer? 2/2
  • How do you define feminism? What does it mean to be a feminist? What does this label stand for? How does #TheFWord appear in media
  • The “F” Word: How the Media Frame Feminism #TheFWord ⅔
  • #HatchKids Learn About the F-Word from Lady Gaga, Amy Schumer, and President Obama #TheFWord 3/3
  • Recent series of videos – Living in a Man’s World. Putting women in men’s shoes and vice versa.
  • 10 Popular Bollywood Songs That Are Highly Gender-Discriminating

Comedy, feminism, women’s safety – Tuesday

  • Importance of Stand Up Comedy ½
  • ‘Stand up comedy is 1 of d most powerful tools 2 educate, heal, incite, n make people ponder about ideas n things beyond themselves’ 2/2
  • EIC: Sex Education in India
  • What do you think about sex education in India? 2/2
  • Bill Maher vs Feminism Do you share the same view as Bill Maher?
  • Bill Burr on Feminism & Sexist Irony Do you share the same view as Bill Burr?
  • Richard Dawkins is not a stand up comedian but hear him share a feminist literature. What do you think leads to such literature?
  • Dave Chapelle – Men and Women Psychology Do you share the same view as Dave Chapelle?
  • Women: Know Your Limits! Harry Enfield – BBC comedy Share your favorite sarcasm piece.
  • Aziz Ansari embraces feminism on the Late Show with David Letterman.
  • Vasundhara – Is Shaadi A License To Rape In India?? How can we avoid marital rape?
  • Louis CK ‘There is no greater threat to women than men’ Do you share the same view as Louis?
  • Using a cartoon and humor to fight violence against women Share your favorite cartoon that conveys this message.

Violence against men and women

Women in waste management

  • Handling waste poses many health risks. Informal waste pickers are exposed to contaminants and hazardous materials.
  • Gender-sensitive approach, gender equity, empowerment of women are critical in the support of new initiatives.
  • Both men n women waste workers face disrespect of fellow-citizens, as handling untreated waste is considered demeaning. Let’s change that.
  • Women are widely active in waste picking, micro-enterprise seem to be more often initiated, operated, managed by men 1/4
  • All-women’s enterprises or cooperatives such as the Stree Mukti Sanghatana are changing this. 2/4
  • Stree Mukti Sanghatana with the help of @bmcmumbai address the problems of waste and of self-employed women involved 3/4
  • #ShaadiCares partners with Stree Mukti Sanghatana to setup a Women’s Rehab Centre (Mumbai). 4/4
  • SWaCH, Pune is India’s first wholly-owned cooperative of self-employed waste pickers and other urban poor.
  • 85-year-old woman inspires neighbours to work on waste management Do you have such people around you? Pls share.
  • 14-year-old girls code app that cleans up India’s streets
  • Women Entrepreneurs Help Pilot India’s First Citywide Recycling Program
  • Equal opportunities for women in waste management industry

Twitter chat on #SaferCities for female tourists/commuters

QA: To start the #Tweetchat, what’s ur self defense tool against physical abuse while travelling? chilli powder, nail filers? Has it worked? #SaferCities #VAW #PublicSafety

QB: As opposed to defense, what preventive measures have you taken to keep yourself safe? #SaferCities

QC: Do you use any app to keep yourself safe? Which one is it? #SaferCities

QD: What would be your suggestion to the Indian govt to make the India’s 100 Smart Cities safe? #SaferCities

QE: What are your ‘do’s and don’ts’ for foreign women travelling to India? #SaferCities

QF: If any foreign women tourist is reading us, please tell us why would you hesitate to travel to India. #SaferCities

QG: To wrap up, what’s your one tip/head’s up that you’d give to someone who wants to learn to keep herself safe? #SaferCities

To see the entire Tweet chat click here.

Technology, science and education

  • India could add 60% to 2025 GDP by bridging gender gap at work: McKinsey
  • India has the highest difference between women and men on the average minutes spent per day on unpaid work—a difference of 300 minutes. Why?
  • India has one of the lowest percentages of firms with female participation in ownership. Why?
  • What can India do about this? Is teaching girls to code enough? #stemwomen
  • What do you think are the reasons behind the gender gap in tech, engineering, and math?
  • What advice would you give your younger self? #DearMe #womenintech
  • Hear from women and girls about how their passion for science and technology first developed and those who were overlooked. #BeTheSpark ½
  • Tell us what got you into science and technology and how has it helped you live a better life #BeTheSpark 2/3
  • Meet cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari. 1/2
  • I never knew there’s something like that that I could do. What is it that you wished you knew about careers in science and tech? 2/2
  • Drugs and pollution can be biased to gender. Check out the tweets that follow to find out how. 1/3
  • Alyson McGregor: Why medicine often has dangerous side effects for women ⅔
  • The Disappearing Male is about the toxic threat to the male reproductive system. 3/3

Fire extinguishers basics

What is fire? We’ve all seen fire. Probably felt it too. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material  – a process known as combustion. It is exothermic, therefore it releases heat. We also know it produces light. Lastly, we know it burns or vaporizes things.

fire extinguishingMechanism of fire onset:

Fire is nothing without its three components – oxidizing agent, heat and fuel. The visible part of fire is called the flame. In my previous post, I mentioned how the fascination towards colorful flames caused a severe accident. Anyway, we’ll get to the safety aspects in a while. So, fire only comes into existence when there is enough oxidizing agent (mostly oxygen), enough heat and enough fuel. When I say ‘enough’, I am trying to quantify it. What I mean is, if one of these three components is in less supply, there won’t be any fire. It also means that as long as these three components are in sufficient supply, the chain reaction that causes fire will continue and the fire will not go away.

Why do we need to extinguish fire?

We know that fire can cause loss of life, loss of property and environmental destruction. To know how fire extinguishers work therefore comes handy. For those who do not know what fire extinguishers are – fire extinguishers are red cylinders containing a certain fire extinguishing chemical inside it. In simple terms, these are devices that can contain small fires.

How do fire extinguishers work?

Fire extinguishers smother fire by:

  • keeping oxidizing agent from reaching it
  • replacing the oxidizing agent with an inert gas
  • preventing the chain reaction (chemical reaction) that’s causing the fire to sustain itself
  • absorbing the heat from the burning material

Fire extinguishing materials:

The most common and probably the most easily available fire extinguisher is water. But beware, it doesn’t work in all cases. It won’t work if the fire is caused due to, say, electronic short-circuit. It can therefore do more damage than good. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides a list of common fire extinguishing materials and here they are:

The last two types were discontinued from use when the Montreal protocol came into effect. This is because when the two chemicals decompose, they decompose into bromine and chlorine, which then mess with the ozone layer.

Fire classes:

The tricky part of all this is knowing which fire extinguisher to use for which type of fire. Yes, there are types of fire and they are categorized into a number of different fire classes.

  • Class A: Ordinary combustibles
  • Class B: Flammable liquid and gas
  • Class C: Electrical
  • Class D: Metal
  • Class K OR Class F: Cooking oils and fats (kitchen fires)

Fire classes can vary a bit according to the country you reside in. So, it is important that you first find out information specific to your own country. For example, in the UK, class B is further divided into two parts: one for liquids and another class C for gases.

Fire training:

Most laboratory and industry personnel have basic or rigorous training in fire fighting. For those who don’t have any access to such training, Wikihow can help, but only so much. You really have to get some practical knowledge – a single demonstration can someday help you save yourself or others. May be a friend from a fire fighting department can help you give a demo or one can request them to have such sessions for your entire community. Training – no training, fret not. Here’s something you can do yourself. Get to your nearest fire extinguisher, you probably know how it looks like. All you have to do now is to read what is written on it. Click here to read about how you can read the details on the cylinder and what it means in simple English. Next, go to YouTube and find videos which demonstrate how to use a fire extinguisher. Something like this video:

Further reading:

What chemicals are used in a fire extinguisher? How do they work to put out fires? – Scientific American

Enjoy the song. ;)

Safety during ultrasonication

James Bond in Casino Royale shoots a propane tank with a handgun. You didn’t miss that did you? If you did, do you at least remember what happens when a gas tank explodes after a crash in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? It’s okay if you don’t, because I’m going to tell  you what happened when the famous ‘rainbow experiment’ went wrong in a lab. Not once but twice.

Chemicals are as nasty as they are shown in films. Chemicals are also very noxious in a chemical laboratory as much as they are at any place else. That’s why wherever you are, whatever you do, chemicals should be handled with care. (Girls, even the acetone that you use to remove nail polish from your nails can catch fire as soon as it comes in touch with an ignition source, i.e. fire.)

Coming to the rainbow experiment. It’s really fascinating to look at. What happens is, when elements such as Na, Sr, K, Li and Cu are mixed with methanol and ignited, they all burn in the colors of a rainbow. You can see its video here.

What went wrong with the rainbow experiment?

A teacher’s chemistry experiment exploded during a demonstration at Beacon High School in Manhattan on Thursday, creating a fireball that burned two 10th graders, one severely, according to Fire Department and school officials. – Chemjobber

It is better to be safe than sorry. As you can see, horrible things have happened, not only to grown-ups but also to children. This doesn’t meant you should avoid doing things that involve risks. Instead, you can do it in a safe way.

As students who had to work in a laboratory, we were told by our professor (Prof. Bhujle) to learn the safety aspects of our respective projects. For those who do not know me or what I was up to during my Masters degree, here’s what I did:

Process intensification using alternative energy source i.e. ultrasound irradiation (sonochemistry), which leads to decrease in energy consumption and waste reduction. Also investigated a Lewis acid catalyzed homogeneous organic condensation reaction and an ultrasound-assisted Pd-catalyzed heterogeneous transfer hydrogenation reaction.

Safety aspects associated with the project:

Ultrasound usage can be categorized as:

  • Low frequency, high power ultrasound (20–100 kHz)
  • High frequency, medium power ultrasound (100 kHz–1 MHz)
  • High frequency, low power ultrasound (1–10 MHz)

The equipment I used to generate ultrasound i.e. ultrasonic bath, runs on a 33 kHz frequency. Hence, it can be taken as low frequency, high power ultrasound.

Contact Exposures:

Contact exposure is exposure for which there is no intervening air gap between the transducer and the tissue. This may be via direct and intimate contact between the transducer and the tissue or it may be mediated by a solid or liquid. Contact exposure can in some cases provide nearly 100% energy transfer to tissue. [1] 33 kHz frequency ultrasonic bath can cause observable effects.

Airborne ultrasound:

The most plausible mechanisms for non-auditory effects of airborne ultrasound on a human are heating and cavitation. [1] An exposure limit for the general public to airborne ultrasound sound pressure levels (SPL) of 70 dB (at 20 kHz), and 100 dB (at 25 kHz and above). [2] The major effects of airborne ultrasound of concern in practice are the result of reception by the ear. To summarize, exposure to ultrasonic radiation, when sufficiently intense, appears to result in a syndrome involving manifestations of nausea, headache, tinnitus, pain, dizziness, and fatigue. The type of symptom and the degree of severity appear to vary depending upon the actual spectrum of the ultrasonic radiation and the individual susceptibility of the exposed persons, particularly their hearing acuity at high frequencies. A concise summary of the physiological effects of ultrasound with specific stated exposure conditions has been given by Acton.

Measures to be taken for safety:

  • Contact exposure to high-power ultrasound must be avoided at all times. [1]
  • Only operators qualified to use the equipment or persons under strict supervision should be allowed within the boundaries of the controlled area while the equipment is operating. [1]
  • Personnel using high-power ultrasound, and safety inspectors in industry should be knowledgeable about the possible harmful effects of ultrasound and necessary protective measures. [1]
  • Warning signs should be placed at the entrance to any area which contains high power ultrasound equipment or applied to each high power ultrasound device. Accompanying each warning sign there should also be a statement indicating the precautionary measures to be taken while the ultrasound power is on. [1]
  • Safety procedures for the protection of personnel are similar to those used for audible noise. The protection for ultrasonic frequencies is expected to be at least 14 dB for ear muffs and rubber ear plugs, and 24 dB for foam ear plugs. [1]

1. Guidelines for the Safe Use of Ultrasound Part II – Industrial & Commercial
Applications – Safety Code 24. Health Canada. ISBN 0-660-13741-0, (1991).
2. AGNIR (2010). Health Effects of Exposure to Ultrasound and Infrasound. Health
Protection Agency, UK, 167–170.

I’ll discuss transfer hydrogenation in subsequent blog posts.

Stay safe. ;)

Go Planet!

I grew up watching Captain Planet and the Planeteers, an American animated environmentalist television program. I used to like the idea of doing something for planet earth. But as I grew up, I read and heard about the problems our earth is facing, the politics and most importantly how incomplete my knowledge is. In the process, I only learnt to keep an open mind.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

Last Edited: January 9 2018

Inherently Safer Plants – Part II

Volunteer Image Author Meditations

This blog post introduces some common terminologies related to safety, and then moves on to the intricacies of it.

Hazard: A hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer, etc.

Risk: The risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

Safety engineering: It is an engineering discipline which assures that engineered systems provide acceptable levels of safety.

Hazard Identification Study: It is the process of identifying hazards in order to plan for, avoid, or mitigate their impacts. Hazard identification is an important step in risk assessment and risk management.

Risk assessment: It is the determination of quantitative or qualitative value of risk related to a concrete situation and a recognized threat (also called hazard). A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

Occupational safety and health (OSH): It is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safetyhealth and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goals of occupational safety and health programs include to foster a safe and healthy work environment.

Hazard analysis: It is used as the first step in a process used to assess risk. The result of a hazard analysis is the identification of different type of hazards.

Now that you know some of the terms that are frequently encountered while approaching this topic, we can move on to the intricacies of it. Before anything, analysis is must, an assessment of a risk. How is it done?

  • Step 1: Identify the hazards
  • Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
  • Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  • Step 4: Record your findings and implement them
  • Step 5: Review your assessment and update if necessary

Follow the link to learn about the five steps to risk assessment.

HAZOP Studies (Hazard and Operability Studies):

HAZOP study is the assessment on adequacy of safety measures taken by industries vis-avis the hazards present and is primarily carried for chemical industries.

Any plant operation sometimes involve deviation from design parameters during the operation. HAZOP study is a structured methodology to identify all possible deviations of the process parameters namely temperature, pressure, composition, direction of flow etc, and all the consequences associated with each deviations. The deviation is also correlated to the safety interlocks, instrumentation and administrative procedure related to the operation.

The output of HAZOP is a list of possible deviations, their causes, consequences, safety measures and additional safety measures required to avoid consequences.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has written voluminous occupational safety and health standards and regulations that affect employers and employees in the United States. It is the employer’s legal responsibility to educate employees on all workplace safety standards and the hazards that their employees may face while on the job.

Because different countries take different approaches to ensuring occupational safety and health, areas of occupational safety and health’s needs and focus also vary between countries and regions. Read more here.

Everyone has the Right to Know, the chemicals they are working with, the environment they will be exposed to.

This topic stretches miles. One can go on reading about safety and the laws surrounding it. Last but not the least, we should not forget that we are humans, imperfect, we make mistakes. So, considering this, one also has to study something known as Behavior-based safety. Read more here.

OSH, India:

Before looking at the strategies of making plants safer, lets us first see how it is traditionally done.

LOPA (Layers of protection analysis):

The various measures for prevention and mitigation of major accidents may be thought of as lines of defence’ (LODs) or ‘layers of protection’ (LOPs). These lines or layers serve to either prevent an initiating event (such as loss of cooling or overcharging of a material to a reactor, for example) from developing into an incident (typically a release of a dangerous substance), or to mitigate the consequences of an incident once it occurs. This is illustrated in figure below.

Read more about LOPA, here.

Coming to the strategies, they will be presented in order of reliability:

  • Inherent: Eliminating the hazard by using materials and process conditions which are non-hazardous. It is the most reliable way. How about creating an atmospheric pressure reaction using non-volatile solvents. This way there is no potential for over pressure. Instead of using a corrosive substance like AlCl3 as a regent in huge quantities, we can use catalytic quantities of say, scandium triflate. A scientist, Shu Kobayashi, has researched a lot on Lewis acid catalysts like metal triflates, which are non-corrosive in nature, unlike the usual lewis acid catalysts.
  • Passive: Minimizing the hazard by process equipment features which reduce either the probability or consequence of the hazard without active functioning. Designing a vessel for 4 atm when the operating condition is 1 atm or having equipment before or after the vessel to reduce the excess pressure. A reaction capable of generating 150 psig pressure in case of a runaway, in a vessel designed for 250, this way the reactor can contain the accident unless it is damaged.
  • Active: Using controls, safety interlocks and emergency shutdown systems to detect and correct process deviations (engineering controls). A reaction capable of generating 150 psig in case of a runaway in a 15 psig reactor with a 5 psig interlock that stops feeds and a rupture disk to reduce pressure, directing contents to effluent treatment. What could happen?
  • Procedural: Using operating procedures, administrative checks, emergency response, and other management approaches to prevent incidents, or to minimize the consequences (administrative controls). Consider the same 150 psig reaction, same reactor, without the interlock. The operator is instructed to monitor the pressure and shuts down feed. Mind you, there can be a human error to make it worse, hence it is the least preferred method.

Another way of looking at inherently safer process strategies is this:

  • Minimize: Use of smaller quantities of hazardous substances. (Intensification/Continuous processes)
  • Substitute: Replace a material with a less hazardous substance.
  • Moderate: Use less hazardous conditions, a less hazardous form of a material, or facilities which minimize the impact of a release of hazardous material or energy. (Attenuation or limitation)
  • Simplify: Design facilities which eliminate unnecessary complexity  and make operating errors less likely, and which are forgiving of errors which are made. (Error tolerance)

Do you remember? It is the same strategy we looked up to design safer chemicals.

Further reading:

Last Edited: January 8 2018