With a spate of closures at schools and public buildings amid mounting complaints of adverse environmental conditions over the last two weeks, the Barbados Workers Union wants to meet with engineers and other experts to explore the “sick building syndrome”.
“Sick building syndrome has been a problem for quite some time now, and while Government buildings are often highlighted, there have been some issues with private sector companies as well,” BWU Senior Assistant General Secretary Orlando Gabby Scott told Barbados TODAY.
“In most cases, [the problems stem from] a combination of damp and paint, and when the chemicals in the paint get exposed to dampness, there is a reaction which gives off potentially harmful substances leading to respiratory tract infections,” he said, adding that for that reason, it was important to let new buildings “air out” before allowing the staff to move in.
Scott, himself an early advocate for occupational health and safety practices, said the island’s leading trade union is planning to meet with the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) and “other stakeholders” shortly to discuss the matter further.
He added that unhygienic cleaning practices have also been found to be contributing factors, “as we have found that sometimes cleaners use the same mops and sponges in the bathrooms as they do on the shop floor, so we will also include cleaners in our discussions, along with management, who are not always aware of the severity of the matter because their offices are located elsewhere”.
Within the past week, workers at the Town and Country Planning Department and the Barbados Statistical Department have walked off the job in protest against long-standing environmental deterioration. The St Leonard’s Boys School and the Lester Vaughan Secondary School were also forced to close their doors for clean-ups.
The complaints by workers, teachers and students have ranged from mould and unusual odours to insect pests.