Ministry of Education's south office, shutdown by OSH

The Occupation Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) has ordered the immediate closure of the Ministry of Education’s Victoria District Office due to a non-functional air condition system and poor ventilation. Guardian Media was informed that the workers were sent home early on Monday and the office remained closed yesterday.

Guardian Media also obtained a copy of the prohibition notice dated January 7, sent to the ministry’s permanent secretary Lenor Baptiste-Simmons from OSH Inspector Rick Ramoutar, informing her of OSHA’s findings and decision. Ramoutar stated, “I hereby prohibit the use of the Ministry of Education’s Victoria District Office located at #16-22 Sutton Street, San Fernando, with immediate effect until the existing danger is removed and you have complied with the OSH Act.”

This follows a walk through inspection of the office on December 19 and 23, 2019, during which Ramoutar came to the following conclusion. “The building was not ventilated by a functioning air-condition system neither was there adequate and suitable ventilation by the circulation of fresh air. Information obtained from staff informed that the building’s central air conditioning system has been non-functional since August 2019. The building is so designed as to function with a central air conditioning system, and as such, there are no provisions (windows, vent blocks or openings on walls) for the maintenance of adequate ventilation by the circulation of fresh air. Additionally, there were no analytical surveys or tests, performed within the building, to indicate that it was fit for occupancy in its current condition.”

Warning that continuous exposure to these conditions can result in workers falling ill, he concluded the conditions “present an imminent danger to the safety and health of employees and is in breach of Section 6 (1), 6(2) (a) and 36 of the OSH Act, Chapter 88:08.”

The ministry was advised that failure to comply with the notice is an offence under Sec 83 to the Act and upon conviction is liable to a $20,000 fine. Guardian Media has reached out to the Ministry’s communication department for a comment and is awaiting a response.