RADHICA DE SILVA
Senior executives of the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) are investigating breaches in the COVID-19 protocols after a Penal mechanic employed with the Commission tested positive.
Several of his colleagues have expressed concern that proper procedures were not followed and a few workers were seen walking off the job before midday yesterday. The 43-year-old mechanic from Penal reported for duty last week Thursday but it was only yesterday that his results were confirmed and shared.
This caused an uproar with some workers calling for the shutdown of the office and the mechanical yard.
Speaking to Guardian Media, T&TEC’s Branch president Christopher Peters confirmed that the entire mechanical department has been put in quarantine.
“They have quarantined five people in total who were with him. They have been tested and we await the outcome of the results,” Peters said.
He explained that contact tracing has started by the Ministry of Health while the Commission started its trace as well.
Peters said many people were concerned, even though fogging and sanitation had been ongoing every weekend since March.
“Workers are leaving the facility and people are upset because previously we had a 14-day rotation with staff but then they brought back all workers on the job,” Peters said.
He added, “We did not have a rotation going on so if one is infected we may have an infection of the total staff.”
Peters said some workers had left because they did not want to congregate in fear of causing more viral transmission.
“T&TEC sanitizes and fogs every weekend. Some of the workers are retrying to avoid congregation on the compound. When they complete their tasks they leave to minimize the numbers of people on the compound.”
He added, “We need proper rotation so the staff will be in a more protected environment. Now all the staff are back out at 100 per cent. We need rotation to avoid cross-contamination,” Peters said.
He said he could not say whether the mechanic had displayed symptoms of COVID, but he said there was room for improvement as it related to COVID-19 protocols.
However, T&TEC’s general manager Kelvin Ramsook said the Commission was investigating breaches by staff members.
“Since March, we have initiated a number of protocols we didn’t wait for incidents to happen. The issue of social distancing and having people wear wearing of masks. In the case of this gentleman, in the distribution southern area, that protocol was followed. There were some breaches and we are investigating those breaches in accordance with the Ministry of Health.
Asked whether one of the breaches was the failure to implement rotation, Ramsook said no.
“There was no need to have rotation. T&TEC adjusted all centres to have social distancing and for everyone to wear masks. There was no situation where people had interaction with one another. If that was happening, all areas were properly cordoned off to ensure that did not happen,” Ramsook explained.
He added, “There was no reason to shut down the office. Anyone who interacted with this gentleman who ought not to have done that. We made it clear there should be no co-mingling. If someone was working in the commercial department, they ought not to be going in the mechanical section unless required. The whole issue of comingling was discussed and all masks were provided and we have found that people were not in compliance so we are dealing with that issue.”
He noted that the Commission had done everything to protect staff.
“Staff was scheduled out and management put all systems in place,” he added.
He noted, “We are not going to go into further detail. We have a case and we have discovered that employees were not complying with clear rules and guidelines. We have met with senior executives to ensure there is complete compliance.”
Meanwhile, a worker who requested anonymity confirmed there was comingling and said because of this, the office should have been shut down for sanitization.
“The areas are supposed to be separate but workers interact all the time and many of us felt that the office should have been shut down.”Another official who requested anonymity said the T&TEC manager had refused to rotate staff as specified by the Chief Medical Officer and the Prime Minister.
During his last address to the media, Prime Minister Dr Rowley said permanent secretaries in the Public Service should reduce the number of public servants required to work at any one time through a rotation system for the next 14 days in a bid to reduce the workforce by 50 per cent.However, the source said this was never done by T&TEC managers.Last May, five workers from T&TEC were tested after they came into contact with a positive case. T&TEC later issued a notice saying there were no cases at the Commission but noted that one worker was sent into self-isolation as a precautionary measure.T&T recorded 43 new cases on Thursday morning, bringing the total count to 369.