A contracting company and Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) have been ordered to split the compensation owed to a welder who was injured by faulty scaffolding while working on a kiln at the cement manufacturer’s compound three years ago.
Delivering an oral judgement after a brief trial at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad ordered Aronco Services Limited and TCL to bear the costs of compensating Aronco worker Joseph Ramsaroop.
While he ordered that the compensation be calculated by a High Court Master, Seepersad ruled that TCL should pay 65 per cent and Aroncothe remainder.
Although he agreed with TCL’s lawyers that in normal circumstances a contractor would have been exclusively liable for injuries sustained by its workers on a third party’s property, he ruled that TCL should shoulder the majority of the liability as it was largely responsible for the accident involving Ramsaroop.
According to evidence presented in Ramsaroop’s claim, the incident occurred on September 15, 2015, while he was doing welding work on TCL’s kiln in Claxton Bay. Ramsaroop was in a crouched position on the ground while one of TCL’s maintenance staff was using the scaffolding to cut chains at the top of the kiln. One of the chains fell onto two of the wooden planks of the scaffolding, which in turn fell on Ramsaroop’s back. Ramsaroop suffered spinal injuries and was deemed 30 per cent partially disabled.
In his lawsuit, Ramsaroop was seeking over $60,000 for past and future medical bills and compensation for loss of earnings as he has been unable to work since being injured.
The lawsuit centred around who should bear liability for the accident. While TCL maintained that Aronco was responsible as Ramsaroop was its employee, it also accused him (Ramsaroop) of contributory negligence as it claimed its staff had informed Aronco’s safety officer of the risks associated with working near the scaffolding.
Aronco, however, claimed TCL was responsible as the parties had previously agreed that work on the top and bottom of the kiln should not be done simultaneously.
In his judgement, Seepersad ruled that TCL had unilaterally decided to conduct the work simultaneously without regard to Ramsaroop and other workers’ safety. He said the decision was financially based, as the company had an interest in ensuring the work was completed quickly as the kiln was vital to its operations.
“TCL engaged in the work without warning being given to the claimant. Were it not for that decision the claimant would not have been injured,” Seepersad said as he ruled that Ramsaroop was not responsible for his injury.
Seepersad still ruled that Ramsaroop’s employer was partially liable for failing to take steps to ensure his safety by informing TCL it was breaching the arrangement when it started the work.
A date for the hearing of the compensation assessment is yet to be set.
Ramsaroop was represented by Edwin Roopnarine. Navindra Ramnanan represented Aronco, while Vijay Deonarine represented TCL
Reporter: Derek Achong