Thursday, December 14, 2017

OSHA finds breaches at court



Mark Fraser

THE Occupation Safety and Health (OSH) Agency has found several breaches at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court, even as members of staff continue to stay off the job, citing health and safety concerns.

In a report submitted to the court executive administrator Michelle Austin, the agency said that a fire certificate was unavailable; the roof was in disrepair; areas could harbour rodents and insects; and there was a disagreeable odour in the area used by police officers.

The report, dated August 13 and signed by the agency’s safety and health Inspector II, Mark Allen, said that the inspection was conducted in the presence of magistrates, including Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington, clerks of the peace and representatives from the Public Services Association (PSA).

The letter attached to the report said that inspection findings and relevant non-conformances with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2004 were listed.

It was found that appropriate fire-fighting equipment was not provided, maintained and kept readily available for use; the roof was in a state of disrepair and “occupants and the public are exposed to the risk of bodily injury due to the possibility of collapsing roof sections, ceiling, guttering or roof supports.”

The courtrooms were described as hot and humid and could result in irritability and discomfort.

Issues were also discovered in the vault and registry areas, with conditions that could provide harbourage for rodents and insects.

It was found that the basement, where the police officers operate, consists of two small rooms, a toilet and multi-use area.

The report said there was no change room, kitchenette or eating area in this section and “a persistent disagreeable odour was evident and this appeared to be related to malfunctioning sewerage”.

The OSH Agency told Austin that the deficiencies must be addressed within the shortest possible time and a report on their status submitted to the agency within two weeks.

The agency said it has already received the fire safety inspection report, dated 2011; a June 2014 emergency response plan; inspection report for the roof of the court regarding asbestos-containing material dated 2013; and an undated facility risk assessment.

In a letter dated August 21, the judiciary said it was committed to submit the required report on the status of corrective action.

The judiciary said that it had “noted the areas of non-compliance in the report and assure that corrective action had already commenced in these areas as a part of our planned programme of work at the court”.

“The judiciary will continue to encourage effective communication between the institution and the representative union, within the prescribed guidelines and regulations, as we work together to ensure the effective delivery of justice.

“We look forward to a return to normal operations at the court as we continue with the execution of physical infrastructure works aimed at improving the working environment of our employees,” the letter said.

Staff members have since been told that they are to return to work and they will not be paid for the time they have been off the job.

PSA president Watson Duke has been meeting with court employees over the last few weeks.