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NCU Officer Calls for Increased Safety Vigilance on Campus

NCU Officer Calls for Increased Safety Vigilance on Campus

Photo Credit: Contributed

By: Natalia Clarke

Following a two vehicle collision at Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) entrance on Friday, April 22, Occupational Safety and Health Officer (OSHO) Shaun Wellington is urging university officials to be more proactive regarding student safety.

The accident, which took place at around 10 am, involved the Director of NCU’s Department of Nursing, Juliet Poyser, and a taxi operator. 

Poyser believes the defective stoplights played a role in the collision.

“Obviously, the accident would not have taken place if the stoplight was working consistently,” she said.

The front door on the passenger side and the fender on her vehicle were damaged.

Wellington said the stoplights have been out of service for several months and his office has done multiple things in an attempt to have them fixed. 

“It’s been reported on more than one occasion to [the Department of Finance, Facilities & Industries],” he said. “We’ve put out things for people to complete data sheets as it relates to near-misses [at the stoplight]. We’ve sent out emails, we’ve done all kinds of things, but we don’t seem to be getting much traction.”

The Department of Finance, Facilities & Industries, he said, is responsible for repairing and replacing the lights and other infrastructures on campus. Vice President (VP) of the department, Trescot Wilson, was not available for comment. 

Wellington, who has been with the school for almost a decade, said NCU is not a ‘safety first’ institution. He said the school has a tendency to wait until bad things happen before resolving safety concerns. 

“This is a safety issue that should not take more than 24 hours to correct,” he said. “I suppose it’s just a matter of waiting until the unthinkable happens and then once it happens, [it will be fixed.]”

He shared an example where he recommended that a tree, which was rotting from the inside out, be cut down. He said the recommendation was ignored and eventually the tree fell. He said no damage was done only because it fell on a sabbath, otherwise it would have fallen on cars parked along the road.

Generally, OSHO’s are responsible for ensuring the workspace is safe for everyone who uses it. Wellington, however, said that is not the case at NCU.

This office makes the suggestion and other people make the decision,” he shared. “We can only highlight issues, report them and beg people to respond and that’s it. We have the responsibility without authority, which to me, I don’t know how any office can function like that,” he explained.

According to Wellington, OSHO is responsible for the Mandeville, Kingston, Runaway Bay and Montego Bay Campus. The office has two employees, Wellington and his receptionist. 

With face-to-face classes set to resume in August 2022, there are several safety concerns he would like the Facilities department to address. 

“Let’s assume that [they] can’t get the parts for the stoplights, then some other measures should be put in place to slow down traffic. Have somebody out there or put one of the rubber speed bumps out there so people have to slow down,” he said. 

He also said that the pedestrian crosswalk at the stoplights needs to be repainted. 

He added that Steps to Christ, a monument on the school’s campus, requires some attention too. 

“Every thread of step is a different height. Some are short, some are long. That’s dangerous because every time you walk, your brain calculates how high your next step should be. Because they are uneven, the possibility of someone falling is very high,” he said.

He added that its wooden texture develops moss when it rains, which makes it slippery. He suggests addressing this before someone is injured.

Additionally, noting that the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) has won several awards, he suggested that a mobile app be developed for students. 

“That app can be used to get in contact with security, to dial emergency numbers, to direct [people] to departments using GPS and develop it so students can permit it to track them,” he said. 

This will allow students who leave classes and work late to feel safe. They should be able to turn off tracking manually. 

The department’s most recent award was first place in the National Science and Technology Competition, hosted by the Scientific Research Council (SRC) in 2019. 

He said the school must also ensure all the chairs and desks are in good condition since they have been in storage. 

Wellington said he does not expect all these issues to be resolved at once, but expects that they are prioritized and a plan is made to resolve them.

He is also appealing to students to take their safety seriously.

“The OSHO is at your disposal,” he said. “If we have the data from you, this office’s voice gets stronger. If we don’t have the data, the most I can do to effect change is send letters.”

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