Saturday, January 20, 2018

Concerns relayed late

OSH chief: Immigration Office inspected on June 4...

If an inspection is done and dangerous circumstances are discovered, a consultation with the chief inspector must be requested within 24 hours. Failing this, the chief inspector can make the decision that no imminent danger is present. 

This was the explanation given by Chief Inspector of the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Gaekwad Ramoutar yesterday as he responded to questions from Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes in the contempt case against Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke  and Ramoutar which resumed at the Industrial Court. 

Mendes stated an inspection of the Immigration Office building had been done on June 4 and the inspector Dr Rosalie Holder had e-mailed Ramoutar with her concerns. In her e-mail sent on July 6, Holder said there were “dangerous conditions and practices: at the Passport Office and she requested a consultation with Ramoutar.

Mendes stated that Holder had invoked Section 74 of the OSH Act in her e-mail, but Ramoutar claimed she could not do so as 24 hours had passed between the time of the inspection and the time she sent the e-mail. 

“If there was an immediate threat, Dr Holder should have consulted with the chief inspector with 24 hours,’’ Ramoutar said. “Because she did not do this, the decision was made that there was no imminent danger.”

Mendes asked if it was usual for a chief inspector to make a decision that a building was suitable for occupation without having visited the building himself. Ramoutar said it was not but he had access to over 120 photographs provided by Dr Holder that formed the basis for his decision.

Under further questioning, Ramoutar stated he was in Tobago when he received Dr Holder’s e-mail. When he returned on July 8, he did not contact her nor did he go to inspect the building himself. 

“There may have been people dying but you are doing nothing?” Mendes asked.

Ramoutar appeared confused during his cross-examination prompting Mendes to remark that it was “disturbing” that the prosecution was proceeding on the basis of Ramoutar’s evidence and they had refused to bring in Dr Holder.

Mendes also questioned why Ramoutar had not mentioned to state attorney Derek Ali that Dr Holder had written to him about the conditions at the Passport Office when he contacted him to give an affidavit.

Ramoutar stated he had no reason for omitting this information. 

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Carl Francis was expected to give evidence yesterday but was dismissed by Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix after she decided that Francis’ testimony was not needed.

The matter was adjourned to Monday at 10 a.m.