Measures are being taken to adequately address the issue of mold infestation and other occupational health and safety hazards at the Department of Justice –following a comprehensive inspection and recommendations given to deal with the situation.
From last April, the department of Justice had been under review for reported incidents of deplorable working conditions affecting staff and other related issues at the workplace.
At the request of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, an Occupational Health and Safety Officer later visited the compound to assess and conduct an inspection. Upon completion, a report was submitted identifying several issues “so as to minimise/ eliminate hazards and risks as far as is reasonably practicable”.
As of April this year, the authorities were still dissatisfied with the working conditions at the location and that “issues identified had not been addressed …and conditions of the building continue to deteriorate”.
However, fast forward to this July, and official reports indicate that some upgrading is being done to better working conditions on the compound.
“They are doing final touches to the building and we are supposed to have an inspection there, either today (Thursday) or by tomorrow (Friday), with the intention that the people (staff) will move in on Monday,” Occupational Health and Safety Officer in the Department of Labour, Joseph Joseph told The VOICE.
“Once the all clear is given, they (staffers) will be able to move across,” he said.
The department of labour’s directive further stated that some workers had experienced symptoms of illness at the work place and that “the presence of mold and other associated problems …negatively impacts the health of the workers.”
Other issues to be addressed, included conducting a structural analysis of the building by professionals to determine its suitability. The report also called for a review of the ventilation system by a certified mechanical engineer; and for electrical installations to be inspected to identify the problem of breakers tripping.
According to Section 263 (b) of the Labour Act, “an employee may refuse to work or do particular work where the physical condition of the workplace or part thereof presents an imminent and serious danger to his or her life, safety or health.”
A list of the findings and recommendations included; the need to provide adequate emergency exit and exit routes and to install adequate fire safety measures. The report also found that there was no fire evacuation plan in place and no first aid kits at the work place.
There was no designated lunch area in the compound, and it was recommended that the area be cleared of all unnecessary items and that a proper cupboard should be provided immediately to accommodate staffers.
Notably, the presence of moisture and mold infestation was observed on the walls and other areas of the building; and in other places, paint had been scraped off the building for repainting.
It was reported that poor ventilation and movement of air was detected on both floors in the building. The recommendations called for a review of the ventilation system, and that maintenance works be conducted every three months on the air condition units “to ensure that working areas are adequately ventilated and protect the health of the workers”.
On the bottom floor, the situation was even more acute, with reports of a dusty vault and no ventilation. There was also unkempt cupboards and poor sanitary conditions in the kitchen area, with other issues such as chipped tiles.
Termite infested wood was observed in several areas, and the officer recommended that adequate measures be taken to address termites in all working areas and to replace all infested termite wood. It was also requested that the aisles and walkways be cleared and remain free of obstructions, at all times.
Joseph reiterated that various issues at the compound needed to be rectified to provide safe working conditions for the staff.
“There are things to do with the air conditioning unit …and we still have an issue with dust and there was an issue with the emergency exit,” he said.
Nonetheless, said Joseph, the construction crew continues to work assiduously to rectify the situation and anticipate that the ministry’s staffers will return to their work place, as soon as possible.
The labour department official added that various departments stepped in to help rectify the situation, and “the ministry of infrastructure did their part and other people …we did our part from a labour perspective and at the moment we are still waiting on some final touches to be done so we can get them (staffers) to get back to safe working conditions.”