An official of the nation’s largest public sector trade union is raising concerns about the engineering standards of Government buildings, charging that too many newly built offices were being classified as ‘sick buildings’.
Acting Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Wayne Walrond said the union continues to be saddled with complaints from members suffering ailments from their work environment.
His comments followed the latest claims by Barbados Statistical Service workers of being “slowly poisoned” by an ongoing air quality issue on the sixth floor of Baobab Towers, at Warrens.
Walrond told Barbados TODAY: “The NUPW is really concerned that new buildings are being plagued with such environmental problems.
“We are dealing with new buildings which would be the Warrens Building also referred to as the Barack Building on Tower Two maybe [and] the Baobab Towers Building which holds the Barbados Statistical Service.
“The Warrens building has environmental problems with people coming down with itching and sore throat.”
Since environmental assessments have yet to reveal the problem with these Government facilities, which in one case has been affecting workers for the last seven months, Walrond queried whether the design of the buildings was at fault.
Walrond said the union suspects that many new public buildings have been engineered “to just deal with [air conditioning]” and “hardly have any windows”. He speculated that the Baobab Towers’ likely “design issue” was with how the air system to extract scents and smells was set up given a recurring odour problem
“Someone has to question if this is initially an engineering problem,” he said.
BSS workers told Barbados TODAY little or nothing was being done to alleviate the strong odour which has been emanating from the sixth floor which they were relocated to last October after they were off the job for two weeks.
One worker said she was worried that the health of workers was being threatened and that some days she did not feel like coming to work.
“That is how I feel as though I am being poisoned slowly. You have a fear that something is going on in your body to the point that you may die,” she said.
Another worker said: “It seems as if nothing is being done because we are having the same issues. People are getting sick and it seems as if no one cares.”
Staff complained “a lot of people” have been visiting the location carrying out various tests but they were still in the dark about the findings.
The workers claimed that after a colleague recently collapsed and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) for treatment, a Ministry of Health and Wellness officer visited the location, but they are still awaiting an update.
Walrond is calling on the Government to have a serious look at the engineering aspect of these ‘sick buildings’. He also urged members of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers to work with Government to establish how they can prevent recurring instances of environmental issues.
“I would like to hear the comments from the Engineering Society to hear what their position on it is. We have to encompass the way forward for the engineering of buildings and see how they can contribute to assist with the eliminating of these problems,” he said.