Calls for probe into iron plant mishap – ENGINEER SUFFERS BURNS, DIES

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THERE must be no attempt to cover up the circumstances surrounding the death of electrical engineer Rossi Mansingh, both the Opposition and a major trade union are demanding.

Mansingh died on Monday night, four days after sustaining electrical burns while working on the site of the former Arcelor Mittal steel plant in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. He died at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Both Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee, and Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) education and research officer Ozzi Warwick, made separate calls for an in-depth investigation, when contacted for comment by Newsday on Tuesday.

The called for the investigation to be public, open and transparent – and if anyone or any entity is found culpable, then let the chips fall where they may.

They also called for Government to get serious about implementing stringent safety measures at the workplace – especially in the energy sector – in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Mansingh, who worked with the former Arcelor Mittal Steel Plant at Point Lisas, died on Monday night from burns he sustained while conducting maintenance work last Thursday at the plant.

Last June, it was announced that the TT Iron Steel Co Ltd had signed a sales and purchase agreement to acquire the Arcelor Mittal Point Lisas iron and steel plant. In a statement, according to a Newsday report, TT Iron said it will refurbish the plant over the next 24 months at a cost of TT$1-1.4 billion. Gus Hiller is the founder and Group CEO of TT Iron and Steel Co Ltd.

Mansingh, who was said to be in his 30s, was the husband of Parvani Rooplal and son of Dave and Shirley Mansingh of Fyzabad. He was being treated at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the general hospital up to the time of his death. His father confirmed Mansingh’s death but said he was too distraught to be interviewed.

GOVT MUST DO BETTER

The OWTU’s Warwick said on Tuesday he could not help but reflect that on the day when politicians and industry leaders were meeting at the energy conference in the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, to discuss how they can extract more profits from the energy sector, news was emerging of Mansingh’s death.

He claimed there continues to be no accountability when it comes to workplace safety.

On Monday – hours before Mansingh died – the OWTU held a press conference to respond to the laying of the Paria diving tragedy report in Parliament. The OWTU called for Government to also make public, the report into the fatal NiQuan Energy Trinidad Ltd (NETL) accident.

In June, Allanlane Ramkissoon, 35, a pipe fitter with Massy Energy Engineered Solutions Ltd, was working on the gas-to-liquids plant at the mothballed refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre when there was a fire and he was injured. He later died in hospital.

OWTU research officer Ozzi Warwick. – Marvin Hamilton

Ramkissoon’s widow Sarah, and his family, have been calling for the report to get closure and also for compensation.

Ramkissoon suffered burns over 60 per cent of his body. He was flown abroad for treatment but died on June 18.

Investigations were initiated by the Ministry of Energy, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), and NiQuan. OSHA also temporarily shut down the plant.

In the Senate in December, Opposition Senator Wade Mark asked Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon – speaking on behalf of Energy Minister Stuart Young – about laying the NiQuan report in the Parliament. Gopee-Scoon said then the matter was sub judice and the report would not be laid in the Parliament as NiQuan was a private company.

President of the Steel Workers Union (SWUTT) Timothy Bailey told Newsday that his information was that Mansingh was placed in a private vehicle and taken to hospital.

Bailey said he spoke to Christopher Kelshall, the appointed liquidator to oversee the winding up of Arcelor Mittal and its transition to the TT Iron and Steel Co, who confirmed that Mansingh had been retained after Arcelor Mittal ceased operations, to assist in the refurbishing of the plant.

“He told me an investigation is ongoing, but I am curious to know what activities were actually taking place on the plant,” Bailey said.

NO UNIONS, NO POLICING

Bailey said this incident was very concerning, as it comes days after the release of the commission of enquiry (CoE) report into the Paria death of four divers. That report has recommended corporate manslaughter charges. Bailey also noted that no report into the NiQuan accident has been released to the public.

“People claim that unions are obstructionist, but just look at these past incidents resulting in fatalities, and you would realise there was no unions being involved in these workplaces. Not at Paria, not at NiQuan,” Bailey said.

He added that trade unions are important in ensuring worker rights. “I am moved to say wherever the unions exist, workplaces are safer.” Warwick agreed saying his thoughts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents and incidents when all they did was try to make an honest day’s pay to support their loved ones.

“I want to remind people of a similar accident that happened at another plant which was closed and the union removed. This is a trend where there isn’t any union representation, there are fatal accidents. Unions police these institutions to make sure companies follow in the strictest sense, the OSH regulations.

“Where workers do not have the protection of the union, workers are unable to exercise their rights under the OSH act, because of victimisation and are therefore afraid to exercise their right to remove themselves from dangerous situations.”

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee. –

Pointe-a-Pierre MP Lee who has been calling inside and outside of the Parliament for the NiQuan report to be made public, said it is time this Government stops hiding behind the excuse of “privacy for private companies,” which stymies accountability.

“If you keep covering up theses incidents, we cannot grow with respect to the safety of our workers,” Lee said.

Lee said there are certain safety standards by which plants operate on the Pt Lisas estate and workers must be certified. He asked if there were any safety officers at the steel plant when Mansingh suffered the fatal injuries.

“Are companies operating within the strictest OSH safety standards? I don’t know. The Minister of Energy, under whose portfolio these plants fall, must give some clarity to this situation, must give clarity to the families of these workers who died on the job.”

Minister of Labour Stephen Mc Clashie did not respond to several calls Newsday placed to his cellphone on Tuesday afternoon.