WASA to compensate worker for Tobago fall

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad – File photo

A HIGH COURT judge has ordered the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to compensate one of its attendants for injuries and losses he suffered in 2018 when he fell after a defective ladder slipped while he was removing chemical items from a building in Tobago.

After a brief trial, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that WASA was obligated to ensure there was a safe system of work, including equipment, for its employees.

However, he found that Seon Duncan, 38, was partly to blame for deciding to continue to mount the ladder when his supervisor refused to assist him by holding it.

“While the defendant was negligent to provide safe workplace, some measure of contribution must be born by claimant.

“Employees have the right to refuse the engagement of work or practices that places them at risk.”

Seepersad said Duncan, of Lambeau, Tobago, should have paused when his supervisor refused to hold the ladder at the Courland Water Treatment plant, and waited for someone else to help him

It was for this reason the authority was only found to be liable for 80 per cent of Duncan’s injuries and losses.

The quantum of damages he is to receive is to be assessed by a master.

The judge emphasised the need for all employers to do regular reviews of their safety processes, plant and equipment.

“The court is concerned on the evidence that WASA, in 2018, did not have proper systems in place nor did the supervisor engage in action to ensure the safety of the equipment on site.”

“Whether OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Agency) signed off the ladder or not, the ladder should not have been on the premises.”

He also said Duncan was entitled to expect all equipment WASA had on site was functional and safe.

Seepersad heard evidence from Duncan, his supervisor, a safety manager and two of his co-workers. While there was a dearth of documentary evidence, a report on the accident said the ladder was defective.

One witness said, “That ladder wasn’t good. We all knew that.”

In his lawsuit, Duncan claimed on June 12, 2018, he was instructed to remove chemical drums from the top of a building at the plant. He said he asked his supervisor to hold the ladder but was told, “Is jess dey you going.”

The supervisor did not assist, but Duncan still mounted the ladder. When he reached the top of the building, the ladder slipped and he fell.

The judge accepted his evidence of what took place and rejected that of his supervisor.

Duncan suffered damage to his spine and forearm and had to have surgery in Trinidad. He still undergoes therapy and needs further surgery on his wrist. He also still continues to experience pain and discomfort, has difficulty driving and is unable to work in his usual capacity, causing him to lose income.