A pioneer in the establishment of worker health and safety standards across the nation, retired trade unionist Orlando Gabby Scott, has complained that workers are suffering in silence as they continue to work in ‘sick buildings’.
The former assistant general secretary for health and wellness at the Barbados Workers’ Union said workers are often victimised for speaking out against the problems they face.
“A lot of them are suffering in silence because when they protest, people make accusations against them. Indoor air quality is imperative.
“We cannot have good air quality if the conditions are negative or if there is not proper airflow,” Scott told Barbados TODAY.
He said poor maintenance is one of the reasons why many of the newly-built public buildings such as the Baobab Tower are plagued with recurring environmental concerns.
“Maintenance is the number one problem in Barbados. We put up these massive, sophisticated buildings, but we do not pay sufficient attention to maintenance.
“In the old days, the air blew right through the building, nowadays we have mould growth. Nowadays we do not have building managers either. So, we are having a lot of dust, a lot of bad air in those buildings also, we had chairs made of wood but now we have chairs made out of material and sometimes the material contains chemicals and that is diffused throughout the building,” Scott said.
“Also, you are spraying; sometimes you are using fumigators who are not sufficiently trained, and they are leaving a lot of chemicals and they are attaching to this kind of material in these new buildings.”
Scott urged Government to ensure there are systematic maintenance and cleaning programmes for public buildings across the island.
He declared: “You just cannot put up a building and not have persons who manage those buildings and a systematic cleaning programme for the air condition units or for the buildings themselves.
“You have the Environmental Protection Department and the Ministry of Health bring in those people to ask for advice. You just can’t bring in new technology and new building materials and do not get the required changes made within the context of these buildings.”
Scott urged the Government to ensure building managers with the mandate for Government buildings are competent, but stressed buildings in Barbados need to be serviced post-haste.
“We bring in persons to fumigate and the people are using chemicals that should not be used. The things [used] are residual and stick into the fabric and the ventilation is also poor. You have air-conditioned units and you do not clean them.”
The veteran trade unionist, who helped introduce occupational health and safety regulations to Barbados, advised workers who believe they are being affected by ‘sick buildings’ to seek the attention of the Ministry of Labour.
“The law protects you, if you are feeling unwell you have the right to call and ask them to do an investigation. I would not ask you to walk off the job unless you have the support of the union or your medical practitioner.”