Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 15th 2015 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 15, 2015
Oilfields Workers Trade Union president Ancel
Roget wants the Occupational Safety and Health
Authority (OSHA) to investigate deadly gas fumes
at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, emanating from
two hydrocarbon plants.
In an interview, Roget said for the third consecutive
day, between 300 and 400 workers attached to the
Pointe-a-Pierre refinery walked off the job as the
plants continued to release high levels of potentially
toxic sulphur dioxide.
He said the union wanted a safety committee to
be established immediately to investigate the cause
and magnitude of the fumes. Even though Petrotrin
has said that gas levels were normal, Roget said work-
ers continued to complain of feeling unwell yester-
"We want the OSH agency to get involved. The
company has not rectified the problem. These noxious
fumes will have lasting effects on the health of the
workers and because the company has not corrected
the source of the leak, the workers have no choice
but to evacuate," he said.
"You are not seeing it but you getting that pungent
odour which is really dangerous. Workers are getting
all kinds of respiratory problems. The company has
an obligation to make the place safe."
The union president said he planned to write to
"Our health and safety committee which comprises
of company officials and the union have to take the
complaint, investigate and take corrective measures.
If the fumes are coming from the plant, they will
have to shut the plant down. Petrotrin did not take
the plants off. They did some corrective measures
which were not efficient so the smell became worse
overnight. That is why the workers had to stay off
the job again," Roget said.
He said that the hydrocarbon plants were old but
were usually maintained daily.
"So far we have no information about which plants
are involved. Once the Osh safety committee is set
up, the union will have a representative from that
committee and we will be able to investigate properly."
Roget said if the problem were not rectified, fuel
production and sales would be hampered.
The union was not satisfied with the company s
response to the matter, Roget said, and Petrotrin
must ensure all its plants and machinery were well
maintained and upgraded.
Union to call in
OSHA on fumes
walk out again
The commissioning of the
Children s Hospital almost
turned into tragedy yesterday
as almost 200 people, including
45 children, had to make a dash
for safety as the canopy cov-
ering the ceremonial stage
came crashing down.
Before the arrival of Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar
around 2.10 pm sudden heavy
rainfall and gusty winds caused
guests to leave their seats and
move towards the front of the
platform that was constructed
for the ceremony.
Master of ceremonies, Paul
Richards, began advising guests
to try to run across to the hos-
pital building as they were get-
ting wet. Richards gave instruc-
tions for the children on the
platform to be removed via a
However, the steady down-
pour kept most people on the
platform, until pieces of scaf-
folding were heard crashing
All hell broke loose, as
Richards screamed into the
sound system, "Get off the stage!
Get off the stage!"
Government ministers, invited
guests and media personnel all
dashed off the platform s two
exits in the downpour. Several
people fell as they ran off, but
luckily no one was hurt.
Speaking immediately follow-
ing the incident, the Housing
Development Corporation s cor-
porate communications manager
Maurisa Findlay told the T&T
Guardian that the incident was
caused because scaffolding and
cloth were used to cover the
stage, instead of a tent.
"Normally we would have a
20x20 tent covering the stage
but this time they opted to use
scaffolding and cloth. It could
not withstand the wind and
rain," she said.
"No one was hurt and more
than likely the commissioning
will be postponed."
However, when Prime Min-
ister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was
brought to the hospital s lobby
around 3.30 pm, the ceremony
went on as planned inside the
building. Although most guests
were still damp and shaken over
the incident, they cheered lustily
for Persad-Bissessar when she
said, "Nothing could take away
from this event today. If you
look outside the sun is out.
"There is a saying that man
proposes and God disposes and
we saw that happening here
today with the heavy rains.
Everybody understands that in
life there will be challenges," she
"Years from now, when I am
gone to the great beyond, the
hospital will be here serving the
children and adults of T&T. It
will endure for generations to
Persad-Bissessar said the hos-
pital has a burns unit to accom-
modate patients from the nearby
Point Lisas industrial estate as
well as encourage medical
"This hospital will be a beacon
in Caricom for medical tourism,
so nationals from other parts of
the Caribbean can come and
receive medical treatment, at a
cost of course."
After the ribbon cutting, Per-
sad-Bissessar took the media on
a brief tour of the hospital and
its facilities before leaving.
The hospital is situated on a
60-acre site on lands from the
former Caroni (1975) Ltd. The
estimated cost of construction
was US$150 million (TT$975m)
and was funded through a gov-
arrangement with China and
constructed by Chinese con-
Scamper off stage
as tent collapses
Commissioning of Children's Hospital
However, in a statement yesterday, Petrotrin
said the situation had returned to normal.
"In response to a gas alarm being activated on
Thursday, a number of employees were
evacuated from the refinery in keeping with
established HSE protocols. All evacuated persons
returned to work after checks defined by our
procedure confirmed that it was safe to do so."
Petrotrin said a few employees were examined
at Petrotrin's Medical Centre with minor related
complaints and were discharged.
"Ongoing monitoring of the air quality at the
various plants indicates that the situation has
returned to normal. The company will continue to
monitor the situation and will take all
appropriate action to ensure the health and well-
being of its employees," Petrotrin said. The
company also said there was no disruption of
fuel production for the local and international
Invited guests scamper through a
heavy downpour after a canopy
collapsed at the opening of the
Children's Hospital, in Couva,
yesterday. PHOTOS: RISHI RAGOONATH
Nurses during their silent protest
at yesterday's opening of the
Children's Hospital, in Couva.
About 40 nurses of the San Fernando General Hopsital
(SFGH) showed up at the commissioning ceremony, staging a
silent protest following an announcement that they will have
to wait until November to get a salary increase.
Toting placards with messages like "A hospital building
alone cannot treat people," the nurses, led by National Health
Workers Union executive officer Sylvan Wilson, stood silently
in front of the collapsed canopy.
Wilson told the media the nurses were not prepared to wait
until November for their back pay, when the country might
have a different finance minister who might not honour the
promises made by Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.
It is not clear how long the nurses stood their ground as the
official commissioning ceremony started shortly after they
arrived and they were not seen at the end of the prime
minister's tour of the hospital.
NURSES IN SILENT PROTEST
BACK TO NORMAL
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