The Caswell Franklyn Column – Barbados Supreme Court Complex – A Death Trap – Enter at Your Own Peril

The relatively new Supreme Court Complex has now officially joined the growing list of government offices that are alleged to be making the occupants sick. Since its closure some commentators have mistakenly bandied about the term, “sick building syndrome” as the reason for the shutdown.

That syndrome is said to exists when the occupants of a building experience health challenges or discomfort that appear to be linked to time spent in that particular building, where the causes for the symptoms are unknown. Normally, there is no specific illness but the symptoms get worse the longer you stay in the building, and there is improvement on leaving.

The symptoms include but are not limited to: headaches; tiredness; blocked or runny noses; dry, itchy skin; dry, sore eyes; throat irritation; rashes; irritability; and difficulty concentrating.

Sick building syndrome is believed to be caused by a number of factors: poor air quality; dust; chemical and other fumes; smoke; fungi (funguses) among other things including the glare from computer screens.

From very early after the opening there had been a concern about poor air quality but more recently, a number of courtrooms have been close off and put out of use because of persistent fungi (mould) taking over those rooms. Rather than close off those rooms, the authorities should have realised that the building has a central air conditioning system that could transport the mould throughout the offices, and close the building much earlier. That mould created a clear and present danger that ought not to have been ignored.

I could understand staff continuing to work in that building if their symptoms were non specific and speculatively attributed to sick building syndrome. But I find it extremely difficult to understand why workers continued to occupy that building, when they knew that their symptoms were potentially life-threatening and directly attributable to the environmental conditions of their workplace.

Every employer has a legal duty to provide a safe place of work and a safe system of work. To my mind, the Government has failed in that duty. Even so, workers have a right, recognises by statute, to protect themselves from harm associated with their work. The Safety and Health at Work Act Act at section 104 states:

Where, during the course of his employment, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that an employee’s health and safety are in imminent danger, that employee may refuse to carry out the task assigned to him pending consultation with his safety committee, trade union or staff association or the Chief Labour Officer.

In light of section 104, I find it even more difficult to understand and accept that persons, who are said to possess some of the best legal minds in this country, could continue to occupy a mould-infested building for years, without a whimper. After the closure, we were greeted by stories, about a whole range of illnesses, from a number of prominent lawyers, whose work cause them to spend significant time in that environment. Maybe, their failure to speak out had nothing to do with their good legal minds but it might have everything to do with a lack of good old-fashioned guts.

Because of the closure of the building for cleaning and other remedial work, it is clear that the illnesses of employees at the Supreme Court Complex cannot be said to be as a result of some speculative sick building syndrome. It appears to me that these workers are suffering from what is termed, “building related illness”. As such, they would be eligible to claim compensation from the National Insurance Office for employment injury.

A worker who is successful in his/her claim for employment injury qualifies for a refund of expenses incurred in the treatment of that condition. I would therefore advise workers to make the application now that their conditions can be safely attributed to the poisonous atmosphere of their workplace.

Over the years, many people have complained that our judges were lazy, maybe, it is just that they were sick.

Recently, a marshal of the Supreme Court died in so far unexplained circumstances. It is only fair to his family that his death should be investigated to determine if he died as a result of his work environment.

99 comments

  • Artax I hope you are wrong because I would hate to think that Mr Ellis would be so stupid to embrace her ever again after all the licks Ms Holder and her Dem sidekick the the Trini put in Brass Tacks and its callers and the chat.If that was to happen I would finish with Brass tacks.However I put nothing past Mr Ellis as he is the PRo for the Dems in my opinion and I am wondering why Mr Wickham was not given another day,as Mr Ellis has two or he could easily replace Mr Lane who thinks reading as much socisl media messages and keeping callers waiting forever is the thing to do and is far too frivolous in my view.The other question I have for Mr Ellis is why would an established and equally popular Moderator like Mr Wickham have to co host with Mr Ellis.The last Moderator he did this to was Ms Caddle and quick so she disappeared as one who like Mr Wickham pelt warm lashes in this Government,apparebntly to the displeasure of Mr Ellis.Mr Ellis seems to want to stifle or sideline Mr Wickham and it seems Patrick was right about Mr Ellis and his motives and I as one will be watching his actions closely in this Election period.

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  • There is the cost factor read VoB has to pay Wickham to host the program, Ellis is a salaried employee.

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  • NO BUILDING NO JUSTICE

    “The Supreme Court complex could be a virtual ghost town Wednesday as the Barbados Bar Association has joined the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in advising its members not to enter the Whitepark Road building.”

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  • I am not hearing any question directed to the contractors who built this building and no question to the owners of this building, I am not speaking about government and I hope we monitor those buildings at the grotto NHC buildings and the ones at valery again NHC buildings.

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  • NorthernObserver

    @Cecil Brooks
    who OWNS the building? Eventually it was to be the Government of Barbados or an agency thereof.

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  • It is interesting some workers including judicial officers turned up for work at the Supreme Court yesterday despite clear evidence we are dealing with a sick building. The expectation is that the Environmental Report will confirm the nature of the ‘infection’.

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  • Caswell Franklyn

    David

    So far one man is dead as a result of working in that building, Yet still, others turned up for work. They might be many reasons why workers would gamble with their lives but I can only give you the ones communicated to me; they include but are not limited to:

    workers received veiled threats pointing out that they are temporary;

    they were reminded that promotions are being considered and allowed to contemplate the consequences of not turning up for work in that death trap; and

    Others want to come out but are not union members.

    some like working in and around the courts and fear the prospect of being transferred;

    Sent from my iPad

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  • Caswell

    What you have stated is very serious. It ignores that there is an environmental report being reviewed to inform next steps, it ignores the rights of workers in a situation where occupational health and safety should be paramount. If proof can be had this would be the perfect situation to expose intimidatory tactics by the bullies.

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  • Caswell Franklyn

    David

    Certain persons feel that they can do what they like and get away with it, even going to the home of one of the husband’s mistress and sharing some blows. That might not have anything to do with the courts or its personnel but it says that you can ignore the law depending on who got your back.

    Sent from my iPad

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  • We look forward to the report being made public. We are already anticipating the implications with an already moribund court system being adversely impacted.

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  • Caswell Franklyn

    Would having the report make any difference. They had a report in 2015 that revealed or rather proved that the environment was toxic and they kept it from the workers. I know a young boy that is without a father as a result.

    Sent from my iPad

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  • Well if the people of Barbados cannot see the Hand of God, judging us for turning our back on them as He has done with many nations in the past, the majority of us must be blind. Including many pastors, men of the cloth etc. When the proverbial #$%^ hits the fan, I am wondering what they are going to do. Do those of you, who like me are not connected or monied have ANY idea of the REAL SLAVE conditions that we will have to exist under?

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  • re Well if the people of Barbados cannot see the Hand of God, judging us for turning our back on them as He has done with many nations in the past, the majority of us must be blind. Including many pastors, men of the cloth etc.

    It ought to be very clear that GOD has indeed turned His back on Bim as posited above.

    I used to wonder if he would one day send a hurricane to sheke the populace from its ungodliness; but from that the country could easily rebuild and recover.

    In his wisdom, God visited Bim with the ineffective and iniquitous DLP JOKERS LED BY THE MOST OUTSTANDING FAILURE OF A MAN, FUMBLE STUART. fROM THIS WE WILL NOT RECOVER IN HASTE, IF EVER AT ALL.

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  • @Caswell

    You need to tell us more.

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  • GP

    Thank you very much for the references to the two books, “Trail of Blood” and “The Faithful Baptist Witness”.

    Found them on Amazon and am half way through the first.

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  • @GP
    It ought to be very clear that GOD has indeed turned His back on Bim as posited above.
    +++++++++++
    Thanks GP, you have provided us with another meaning to the phrase “behind God back”

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  • Hope you enjoy them both JOHN
    Glad to be of help TO BOTH JOHN & SARGE

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  • The following was sent to BU’s inbox:

    Dear Members,

    At a Special General Meeting held this afternoon at the Barbados Bar Association Headquarters, the following resolution was passed:

    WHEREAS:

    The Barbados Bar Association has been informed of ongoing environmental issues at the Supreme Court Complex which have led to a risk of exposure to infection, underlying and unidentifiable illnesses and other risks to health to members of the public who enter the said building

    BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

    1.      From this point forward the Barbados Bar Association will advise and recommend to its members that they no longer present themselves or in any form participate or attend chamber matters, trials or any other such activities at the Supreme Court Complex because of the risk of exposure to infection, underlying and unidentifiable illnesses and any other risk to health associated with the ongoing environmental issues which have led to the cessation of activities by the Registry staff of the Supreme Court.

    2.      The Barbados Bar Asociation will accordingly advise its members to inform their clients of the foregoing circumstances and the risks posed to their health as a result of the said unresolved issues at the Supreme Court Complex.

    3.      In the interim, the Barbados Bar Association recognizes and is prepared to offer its assistance to maintain the rule of law and access to justice. In this regard the Barbados Bar Association recommends and insists that the traditional recess which is scheduled for the month of August be brought forward to cover the entire month of May 2018 and that immediate arrangements be put into place for the following:

    i.                 The approval of sureties for persons who have been granted bail;

    ii.                The arrangement for the receipt, organisation and hearing of urgent applications;

    iii.               The filing and collection of birth, death and marriage certificates;

    iv.               The collection of decrees certified orders;

    v.                For the exercise of the discretion of the court to enlarge time for the purposes of compliance with orders of the court, case management directions, limitation periods and so forth from the 11th April 2018;

    vi.               Access to critical records; and

    vii.             All other matters incidental to the administration of Justice.

    4.      The foregoing recommendations will remain in place until the Barbados Bar Association receives definitive scientific evidence that the Supreme Court Complex is fit for the use of members of the public.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kristin C. A. Turton

    Hon. Secretary

    Very interesting resolution!

    Has it received “definitive scientific evidence” that the court is UNFIT “ for the use of members of the public?”

    I wonder too if the Bar Association met with the CJ, Registrar and AG, the main functionaries that administer the Court system before taking what in the face of it appears to be precipitate action!

    I know for a fact the President of the Bar Association has never had the decency to speak with the Attorney General and she is known to have at hand his office numbers and his Cell phone number.

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  • John April 23, 2018 7:14 PM “Mold exists everywhere; there are no indoor spaces without mold.1,2,3 However, without sufficient moisture, mold cannot grow If mold is growing, too much moisture is present.”

    Has anybody considered using dehumidifyers to remove the moisture from the air? Every time we breathe we expel moisture into the atmosphere. And if the building is a closed building where does that moisture go?

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  • And of course since we know that lawyers especially expel a lot of hot air…

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  • The U.S. Embassy building at Wildey is about the same age as our Supreme Court building, about ten years old. The Embassy moved there in January 2007. I don’t hear about any environmental problems there? Weren’t both buildings built by Bajan artisans? So what is the difference? I would bet anything that the Embassy has a full time non-unionized maintenance staff, and that they have to WORK HARD EVERYDAY to keep the building shipshape.

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  • @FearPlay April 22, 2018 3:32 PM “And where will the prisoners at Dodds be housed when that building is found to be a “sick building” also, as so many government buildings have proven to be?”

    Not much of a worry except for some of the administrative buildings which are closed/air conditioned.

    There was a period of my life when I was in, and the cells are not air conditioned, there is natural ventilation. No carbon monoxide, no mold/fungus. Plenty fresh air.

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  • WHEREAS: The Barbados Bar Association has been informed of ongoing environmental issues at the Supreme Court Complex which have led to a risk of exposure to infection, underlying and unidentifiable illnesses and other risks to health to members of the public who enter the said building

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Wow, the Bar Association has suddenly realised that there is some source of unidentifiable infections!!!

    This is the height of totally ignorant language!!!

    These idiots have been working every day in there for the past 10 or so years and are only now being informed of an environmental issue which cannot be identified!!

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  • “The other question I have for Mr. Ellis is why would an established and equally popular Moderator like Mr Wickham have to co host with Mr. Ellis.”

    Lorenzo

    You answered your question with the comment re: “Mr. Wickham pelt warm lashes in this Government.”

    As such, if you were to rationally analyze Ellis’ handling of “Brass Tacks” recently, you would immediately realize that, given his provocative style of moderating, Peter Wickham may not be the best moderator to host “The People’s Parliament” at this time and more so during the “silly season.”

    Ellis is guided by criticisms of Brass Tacks……and there could be a number of reasons why he prefers to co-host with Wickham.

    Perhaps Ellis does not want a repeat of what transpired previously when the BLP “was in power” and Wickham used to “pelt some warm lashes” in the BLP and specifically Owen Arthur……..and the consequent actions of the pro BLP callers towards Wickham……..

    The tables have turned…….with Wickham “pelting some warm lashes in the DLP and particularly Freundel Stuart…….

    ………….Ellis may believe as a co-host he will bring some measure of fairness and balance to the program, while holding Wickham’s hand and guiding him along a specific line.

    Then the “economics” of program and VOB must be taken into consideration.

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