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Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union president-general Ancel Roget speaks to NP workers outside the company’s Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain compound yesterday.

A clash between the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and State-owned National Petroleum is continuing in the wake of Friday’s massive explosion at NP, Sea Lots.

In a media conference yesterday, OWTU President General Ancel Roget said the union warned NP about health and safety concerns since October 14 about the same area involved in Friday’s explosion but received no response.

He also said the union had been left out of the process of health and safety.

These claims were refuted by the company in a media release hours after Roget completed his media conference.

Roget said the union raised concerns to NP’s management and its response to HSE issues.

In a subsequent release, NP responded directly to some of the accusations Roget made at his press conference.

Roget said that there was no Health and Safety checks at NP in the months leading up to the massive explosion on Friday which left three workers injured.

“Since October 14 to present, we are now in December, we have not had sight of that report despite our continued pressing for the company,” he said.

“Every time an issue is raised with management what they seek to do is shroud it with allegations and paint the union as some sort of monster while in fact we are trying to point them in the right direction,” he said.

Roget alleged that “all is not well at NP” and accused the company of prematurely cleaning up the accident site.

“What we are certain about is that they ought not to have been given clearance to clean up the site until we are satisfied that we are able to unearth the root cause for this particular incident,” he said.

This, the company strongly refuted.

“The OWTU sought to give the erroneous impression of an alleged attempt to intentionally compromise the investigation by covering up some of the findings. This accusation is baseless and is far from the truth. Site inspections and investigations commenced immediately after the incident on Friday, by the relevant regulatory bodies, and over the course of the weekend,” NP said in its media release.

Roget said that the union, despite directives in the collective bargaining agreement, was not involved in the investigation and subsequent report on the explosion.

“In the spirit of transparency and to keep the union abreast of the unfolding investigation, two of the OWTU’s Branch representatives would have accompanied NP’s management in a walkabout in the affected area, this morning, just prior to the OWTU’s media conference. Immediately following the walkabout as part of the closing meeting for the walkabout, in the presence of the union’s representatives, the management team facilitated an interactive Q&A session with the employees in the operational areas, where their concerns were addressed, and they were given the assurance that all contingency measures were in place, before operations started this morning (Monday),” NP said.

Roget said the union’s previous protests at NP had nothing to do with money and everything to do with the union’s concerns about HSE lapses.

“That was not the case, it was a concern for an operation that was safe,” he said.

“We would have called for the inspection of all of those vehicles (Road Tanker Wagons) and the inspection of the gantry and the facility at Sea Lots,” he said.

“We were meeting a hell of a lot of resistance,” he said.

He said that the explosion at NP was preventable.

“What occurred on Friday, where those workers were seriously injured, that was preventable.

We are of the view based on our interactions with NP’s management, the current NP management that the issue of health and safety and safety concerns of the workers and the environment comes a second and third place when it comes to the operations at NP.”

Roget said that on many occasions the union brought the topic of health and safety to NP’s management and was paid only “lip service”.

“The result that occurred on Friday will always be the result,” he said.

Roget said however that it is likely to recur if NP does not improve its HSE standing.