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Former employee awarded damages
A commercial bank has been ordered to pay compensation to former employee for failing to provide a safe working environment. The ruling was handed down last week by Justice Joan Charles, at the Hall of Justice, in Port-of-Spain. An assessment of damages is yet to be made. In his testimony, Keith Malchan said on August 14, 2006 he returned from vacation and resumed duties at the Republic Bank Tunapuna West Branch.
He said he noticed the sales department was being renovated and staff in that department was placed on the ground floor to work in close proximity to the fumes and other chemicals being used in the renovation process. The pungent smell and other intoxicants were most prominent on the first floor and also permeated the entire building, Malchan added. The next day was Malchan was told the department would be functioning as normal.
However, around midday he began feeling unwell and his throat felt “scratchy and grainy” and he had a headache. Malchan said despite numerous reports to his supervisor he was made to work in dust, fumes and pungent odours. He was sent on sick leave for 21 days on September 8, 2006. To date he has to remain on sick leave as he was unable to return to work and has been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.
Attorney Kendall Alexander represented the bank while Malchan was represented by attorney Larry Lalla. Malchan in a telephone interview said he was elated by the court’s decision which he believed was expected. He said since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome he has to take two sets of medication which was costly.
“Chances are I would be on medication for the rest of my life because I have to remain on it to keep the sickness at bay. I have to stay away from any physical and work-related and environmental stresses,” Malchan added. Asked how he was able to afford the medication Malchan said his wife was employed adding: “We are surviving.” The entire matter, however, he said, could have been simply avoided if the bank’s management had paid heed to his concerns. “All they had to do was just listen to me,” Malchan added.
Some of the particulars of the negligence include:
1. Failing to take appropriate measures in reducing and minimising the effect that the fumes, dust and smell would have on Malchan
2. Failing to ensure that Malchan would not be injured during the renovations
3. Exposing Malchan on a daily basis for a period of three weeks to pungent smells, dust and paint fumes from the renovations
4. Opting to renovate while Malchan was engaged in his employment
5. Failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks created by the hazardous properties of the substances used in the renovation works in addition to the level, type and duration of the exposure of the substances
6. Failing in all circumstances to take reasonable care for the health, safety and well-being of Malchan
7. Failing to consider and take appropriate remedial actions in light of the fact that Malchan was evidently suffering from ill health and/or needed to be transferred to another branch for the duration of the renovations.
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