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102 fatal accidents at work

Published: 
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
President of the Law Association Reginald Armour, left, greets Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix during the opening of the Industrial Court yesterday, at Queen and St Vincent Streets, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON

For the period 2006 to 2015 there were 102 fatal accidents which occurred in the workplace and the construction industry was cited as having the highest number of fatalities as it recorded 33 fatal accidents for that period.

Saying that one death in the workplace was one too many, president of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix, in delivering her remarks at the court’s opening yesterday, expressed concern that 102 workplace deaths occurred over nine years.

Mental, emotional and psychological stress in the workplace, she added, also contributed to a poor work environment.

The sector with the highest number of non-fatal accidents was the manufacturing sector with the lowest figure at 249 in 2014 and the highest 555 in 2008.

“These accidents and incidents in my view are to a large measure due to failures and deficiency in the policy and management of occupational health and safety in several businesses in this country,” Thomas-Felix said.

She said as a nation the concept of increased productivity and increased economic activity cannot be promoted without simultaneously insisting on effective policies for occupational safety and health in all business enterprises.

“Moreover, we cannot turn a blind eye to the growing number of diseases which have been debilitating and devastating to our citizens,” Thomas-Felix added.

She urged that it was the duty of each employer whether in the public or private sector to provide a safe and healthy environment for workers and to develop and promote a culture which supported health and safety at work.

“I urge employers in both public and private sectors to adopt and promote proper health and safety policies and programmes at work. I also strongly recommend that they create awareness among their workers of the various dimensions and short-term and long-term consequences of related accidents, injuries and diseases and place the health and safety of all workers as a priority,” Thomas-Felix said.

Challenges 

She said with the increasing number of disputes and matters engaging the court there was the need for increased staff and accommodation. 

In 2009 there were 692 new disputes filed and for the period 2013 to 2015, 2,384 disputes were filed.

The court, Thomas-Felix added, continued to experience challenges of space as judges and staff functioned daily in less than ideal conditions. 

“The shortage of staff particularly in the court reporting department continued to be a problem and, this year, we experienced budgetary cuts from the very beginning of the year. 

As a result stationery and basic equipment were scarce. 

“These challenges have stymied the smooth operation of the court. Many practitioners can attest to the fact that their several requests for verbatim notes of evidence from the court have not been met in a timely manner due to the lack of support staff to prepare these,” Thomas-Felix added.

Disputes filed 

From September 14, 2015, to September 9, 2016, some 1,171 new disputes were filed at the court which was 450 more than the number of disputes filed the previous year. The court disposed of 963 disputes this year which was significantly higher than the 702 disputes which were disposed of for the same period 2014-2015.

Thomas-Felix said the disposal rate for 2015 to 2016 was 82.2 per cent.

A breakdown of the total number of disputes disposed in 

2015 to 2016 is as follows:

• 258 were disposed by judgments

• 157 were settled bilaterally

• 111 were disposed by conciliation

• 30 were dismissed for want of prosecution 

• 407 were withdrawn by parties, mainly due to the conciliatory efforts of the court.