THE Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is accusing the TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC) of placing field workers at risk.
A claim which T&TEC denied, saying it is duty bound to provide a safe and reliable electricity supply to citizens and will continue to ensure that its safety measures are in keeping with the Ministry of Health's standards for the protection of employees and the public.
But the OWTU is claiming one worker from the North Distribution department is in self quarantine and three others who exhibited flu like symptoms were taken to the Eric Williams Medical Complex for covid19 testing on Monday night. They are awaiting results.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Rosham Parasram said he was not aware of the testing of the electricity workers and required some time to make enquiries.
The union’s vice president Peter Burke said all four workers were assigned to the same project at Park and Flemming Street Port of Spain at T&TEC’s 6.6 KB substation, yet the commission failed to stop work on the project putting workers and their families at risk.
“They also failed to adhere to the temporary work arrangements and the necessary MoH guidelines to protect workers.”
Burke said the temporary work arrangement was negotiated with the union but violated by the commission which called out its full workforce.
Emergency work in the context of covid19 was clearly defined in a meeting between the two parties on March 25 and a two-shift roster was agreed upon to reduce the number of workers on duty at the same time.
Burke said not only was this agreement violated but workers are facing further risks as inadequate covid19 safety measures, such as proper PPE and social distancing, also previously agreed to, are not in effect.
He said the face masks and gloves issued are substandard and “cannot pass a simple candle test.
“Further, the union notes that the commission’s own unilateral precautions are inadequate and have not been shared with staff.”
He referred to a situation in Arima last Thursday morning where workers had to engage management regarding the issuance of PPE and protocols guiding the operations during the pandemic.
The PPE and protocols were issued only after the intervention of the chief technical officer.
Burke called on workers to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.
He also called on T&TEC to act responsibly by adhering to arrangements and place workers’ safety as its priority.
In a late response, T&TEC’s corporate communications manager Annabelle Brasnell said the commission's covid19 response measures are guided by the protocols of the MOH and related state agencies.
She said any possible case of infection was forwarded to those authorities for guidance, further action and dissemination of information to the public.
Brasnell said the commission is adhering to the MOH guidelines to limit the spread and has installed physical barriers, hand wash sinks and sanitising liquid dispensers, as well as, the use of infrared thermometers to screen both employees and the public, along with the distribution of masks and related PPE.
Additionally, she said staff was either being rotated or assigned staggered arrival and departure time to limit the number of people in buildings at the same time and to minimise interaction.