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Osha report condemns forensic science centre
Conditions at the Forensic Science Centre in Federation Park, Port-of-Spain, do not conform with international guidelines under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, says a report by local Osha officials. Examples of this include inadequate body storage facilities, limited work space in the post-mortem room, the absence of a separate viewing facility for families and relatives; and the use of furniture and fittings not designed for use in a post-mortem room.
The report was compiled by Osha’s safety and health inspectors who visited the centre three times in October 2012 It was handed to the centre’s director, Arlette Lewis, on November 19, but it was only within recent weeks that a handful of employees were made aware of the report. Osha officials said once the report was received, the identified breaches of the act must be addressed within 14 days in writing.
“This should indicate the corrective measures and the time frame in which they will be implemented,” the report said. “Based on the inspections and the identified issues, the mitigation of risk in the mortuary is of primary concern.” But disgruntled employees told the T&T Guardian that although almost four months had passed, nothing had been done to improve the centre.
Findings of the report
• inadequate ventilation systems in the post-mortem room
• no exhaust ventilation for the dilution of formaldehyde for the use of the pathology department, although it is known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing)
• mould in the cupboards of the DNA department because of humidity
• inadequate ventilation in the photocopying room and rest area of the pathology department, because of a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit.
Chemical storage and handling:
• chemicals not labelled adequately in the chemical storage room
• empty hazardous-chemical bottles in the old mortuary room
• procedures for handling of chemicals inadequate
• no first-aid kit or emergency shower and an inadequate eyewash station in the post-mortem room
• no evidence of training on general fire safety and the use of firefighting equipment
• inadequate storage of human remains such as bones and tissue samples
• bone repository and separate storage area needed for tissue samples
• general housekeeping and storage of files, boxes and other items required for various jobs also needed to be improved throughout the building.
• boxes stacked to the ceiling in the biology department impeded access and egress routes
• one spill kit on the second floor and for use by all departments. Each department that used hazardous chemicals should have an individual spill kit.
• no safety signs in high-risk areas such as the pathology department.
Situation must be addressed
Forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, who has been working at the centre for almost five years, said he was concerned by the findings of the report and urged the Government to immediately address the situation. He said during that time there was no improvement at the pathology department. “The only improvement done was through my initiative,” Alexandrov said.
“I offered solutions for unidentified bodies, how to store the bones properly but I got no response from the adminstration. “We were given one camera for the pathology department and I took money out of my own pocket and spent about US$3,000 and bought two additional cameras to ensure evidence was properly documented.”
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