La Romaine Secondary remains closed due to exposed wires

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 13:00

The La Romaine Secondary School remains closed as teachers continue to reject an instruction from the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) to return to school. 

A source from the OSHA Agency said several parts of the school were safe for occupation even though minor works were continuing in other sections of the school.

Documentation was submitted to the Ministry of Education but despite the official opening of the structure on Monday, teachers have not reported for duty.

In an interview with Guardian Media, president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association Lynsley Doodhai said teachers were exercising their right to refuse to work under the OSH regulations.

He said it will be foolhardy for the Ministry of Education to press charges against teachers because they were acting in accordance with the law.

Doodhai said unless the Chief Inspector at OSH provided documentation showing the school was safe, the teachers will remain away from the job. 

"Since June teachers at La Romaine Secondary school have initiated a refusal to work based on safety concerns arising out of a fire in May. On Monday the school was opened and teachers reported for duty but they refused to stay on the compound for a number of reasons related to safety," Doodhai said.

He added that teachers were baffled as to why the OSH Agency would declare the school safe for occupation when there were loose electrical wires and uncovered electrical circuits exposed in the school.

"On Friday there was a walk through with officials from OSHA and union representatives. We saw lots of loose wires and electrical receptacles were not covered. Our union reps were told by the OSH inspectorate that the school was fit for reopening but when they asked for a copy of the OSH report the inspector said he had to get clearance first," Doodhai revealed.

He said the clearance from the Fire Department was also not supplied to TTUTA.

"We must be assured without a doubt that the school is safe for occupation. They need to furnish the reports to us. The law states that if we are dissatisfied with the OSH Inspector, they can make an appeal to the chief inspector of the OSH agency. What they did was within the provisions of the OSH Act," Doodhai said.

He said pending the termination of appeal by the Chief Inspector, the teachers will not return to school.

With regard to charges, Doodhai said TTUTA won two cases involving teachers from Tranquillity and Longdenville government schools who exercised their right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

Doodhai said he hoped the school could be reopened this week. 

On Monday, parents staged a placard protests over the delays in school opening.

Ministry officials said the OSHA and the T&TEC Inspectorate gave clearance for the school to be occupied today. He denied that there were exposed electrical wires and panel boxes in classrooms.

The source said the electrification project was large and OSHA agreed to lift the ban in areas designated as safe for occupation.

However, he said other parts of the school, not occupied by students, which were still undergoing minor repairs.

"If a child gets electrocuted, the Ministry will be responsible so we will never let students enter areas which are unsafe," the source added.

- by Radhica De Silva