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Protest over killed oil worker

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

ENERGY Minister Kevin Ramnarine and top management of State-owned Petrotrin should accept responsibility for the worksite death of contract oil worker Arvitar Ramkhelawan.

This is according to Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) senior labour relations officer, Errol A Mcleod.

Ramkhelawan, 23, was killed instantly when a progressive cavity pump struck him on the head on Tuesday.

 The father of two was a welder employed by contractor Premnath Lalchan. Ramkhelewan was working at an oil well at Forest Reserve in Fyzabad when the incident occurred. 

Forest Reserve workers downed tools yesterday, protesting unsafe conditions at the worksite.

Mcleod, who led the protest, said workers were also against Petrotrin’s decision to hand over the jobs to small contractors.

“The workers protested based on the death of a contract worker. They protesting because they fed up with the callous, unsafe, uncaring management of Petrotrin. They are just giving the company away, selling it and contracting it out. And the Minister of Energy has the gall to stand up and tell the country that Petrotrin is not about leasing out and farming out wells. That was the biggest lie ever told to the country,” he said.

Mcleod said workers demonstrated for two hours, calling for the resignation of the Energy Minister and the executive of Petrotrin. They returned to work at 9 a.m.

“This young man’s life was lost unfairly. Just as the Maha Sabha head called for the resignation of the Minister of the People, we are also calling for the resignation of the Minister of Energy.”

Mcleod said contract workers were at risk as they did not have the manpower to perform the job safely and effectively.

“If it was a company worker, you would have had a crew of people there manned by a foreman and then by an A-class worker, and then other workers to do the necessary work, as far as the well is concerned.”

He said the company was encouraging unsafe behaviour on the work sites.

“They telling themselves that they saving money, but they just killing people, taking innocent lives because they don’t care,” he said.

Mcleod also complained about a shortage of police officers in the fields. He said one officer was responsible for manning the post at any time.

“That is why they finding dead bodies in the field. Thefts taking place and nobody doing anything.”

Mcleod said had the company observed safety standards, Ramkhelawan would have been alive. He said the protest would continue and spread to other locations if Petrotrin failed to resolve the safety issues.

Petrotrin has stated an internal investigation was launched into Ramkhelawan’s death. 

A police report stated workmen were servicing a device, commonly referred to as a polishing rod, at Forest Reserve around 1.30 p.m. As the motor was started, the device suddenly spun out of control and struck Ramkhelawan, who was standing nearby on an overflow line, on the head, killing him instantly. 

Last Wednesday, Petrotrin employee Sharaz Karim was burnt in an accident at the company’s oil refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre.

Karim, a pump technician, was said to be completing work on a boiler fan during the start-up of a turbine when the safety exhaust valve was activated, releasing steam which burnt his hands and back.

 He was rushed to Augustus Long Hospital where he was treated. 

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