Glass House sick say reports

| 07/02/2011

(CNS): The move from the current government offices at the Glass House into the new accommodation can’t come too soon for some government workers who continue to complain of ill health. It appears staff have been breathing in mould and sewer gasses for many years, according to reports made public on the Lands and Survey website in its freedom of information disclosure log. The reports show that people have been complaining of serious illness for over a decade and environmental reports completed as recently as last year show the building is still home to some dangerous pathogens. Going back as far as 1998, government reports, which were kept confidential, say staff in the Glass House have been working in offices that could have made them ill.

Over the last twelve years government workers appear to have complained about suffering from ill-health while working in the Glass House and reports conducted as recently as last year reveal that not all of the problems have been addressed, with evidence of mould inside the building. The move to the new accommodation was set to take place last month but the need for various inspections has delayed the start of the transfer, which officials say will be completed in stages.

Although the various reports state there are no generally accepted guidelines for comparative levels of fungi and mould on the inside to the outside, the Glass House, when compared to outside levels of spore samples, have generally shown similar levels and species composition. However, in some cases the reports show that there appears to be high levels of mould in some offices.

One of the many reports that is now on the Lands and Survey website conducted by the DoEH in 2009 shows that one government employee who worked on the second floor in the Treasury Department had reported respiratory problems and when tested had shown a high level of allergy reaction to Aspergillus, one of a number of dangerous spores found in his office at “moderate” levels. In the summary of findings the report said that in the Treasury Offices there were several spots which showed mould growth typical of extended exposure to moisture and samples taken directly from the vent in the office indicated the possibility of contamination of the ducts.

CNS contacted the public servant in question to ask him what had happened as a result of the report but he said he could not comment on the situation as he was still a member of the civil service and was not able to talk to the press but he confirmed he had been moved from the Glass House.

The issue of health and safety at the thirty-year-old office block was raised back in 2005 when the Governor’s Office moved out because of inadequate fire escape provisions. After government decided it would build the new government office accommodation building a decision was made not to install a new fire escape. While questions of mould and other dangerous pathogens had been muted at that time, it was never confirmed by government that people were suffering from respiratory conditions as a result of working in the building. E-mails revealed in the disclosure log demonstrated that government officials knew there were problems in the building that could cause ill health and that there was a need for major engineeringworks to address the odours, mould and contamination in the air supply.

Although the new office accommodation building has been completed more or less on schedule, there have been some last minute delays. Government workers are now expected to begin the move this month. Given the revelations about the health concerns raised over the years about the real condition of the Glass House, the move to the modern, environmentally friendly building could see a marked improvement in the health and well being of the country’s civil service.

See disclosure log here

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why Haven’t they moved in yet? Are they ready?

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Glass House building is not sick, it is those that are responsible for the maintenance of Government buildings, especially the air conditioning and ducting. They should be dismissed from their appointments, and held responsible for their dereliction of duty .
    We already have one Government office building declared sick and destroyed inspite of the Chief Surveyor’s findings that it was structurally sound.
    How is it that the privately owned buildings are not sick if not because they are properly maintained?
    How is it that the old and historic buildings in England are never sick, have not been pulled down and will be in use for posterity?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone checked out the Elizabethan Plaza, where most of the other Government/Statutory offices are facilitated?

    Numerous staff who were previously healthy, or never taken a sick day or got a cold/flu, some are marathon runners, vegans, fitness buffs, naturalists, but after a few months working there, nearly all staff complain of sinus related illness, suffer from reoccurring symptoms, have to take time off for doctor visits and pay for expensive medications or undergovarious tests. Yet the claim is there is no mould, staffs are making this up.

    And yes if you go over your sick days for the year, they are deducted from your remaining vacation; if you do not have any remaining vacation then it is a salary deduction.

  4. Mouldaphobic says:

    In my honest and humble opinion – I believe the average, unhealthy lifestyle of (us) Caymanians is what contributes most to any suggested suspiciously high rates of illnesses.

    Also, what is with the calls for class action law suits?! There is nothing in the article, or on the marlroad for that matter, that justifies such drastic measures. Besides, we would only be killing ourselves (economy / government / people) at the end of the day.

    Seriously, some of us have it too good. Be grateful you don’t work in some dusty and damp rural government office in a country such as Brazil, India, Australia or China.


    • Anonymous says:

      To Mouldaphobic Tue 02/08/11 11:02    And just what is your working environment?Are you working in one of those damp and dusty government offices or in a cushy ,comfy, and mold free office?

  5. Anonymous says:

    So how is this different from any of the other buildings that are impacted by the same sort of situation? Do you reallythink this is any different for some other old office buildings around town? What about the schools (government and public) who have gone through Ivan. What about a lot of the daycare facilities or the hospital?

    Instead of wasting energy and resources on something that has happened but is about to be resolved (by the move to the new building), I suggest people spend their efforst and funds to resolve this issue where it still lingers, especially in our schools!

  6. Anonymous says:

         I wonder if the mold situation has been remedied at the Customs Office at Owen Roberts Airport . I believe there was a serious mold problem in the wall between the Customs Supervisors office and the rest of the Customs Office.Apparently this affected a number of staff resulting in a significant number of sick days. The sad part is, that it is said, that some staff exceeded their allocated number of sick days and were told that these would be deducted from their pay.I hope not.

  7. Duck Outta Vatta says:

    Do not worry.  The work force here works in the face of illness.  No one here views sick leave as an adjunct to vacation.

    PS:  How many sick days do I have left this year?

    • Uncivil Servant says:

      Use ’em or lose ’em my brother.

    • Anonymous says:

      To Duck Outta Vatta       Not too many I hear.Ibelieve that’s because you were sick when you started to work here;sick and tired of the way of life back home.Not to worry ,they say your life here is one big vacation.

  8. Thankful Again says:

    Every single Civil Servant working that building since 1998 fshould be given a monetary compensation through a class action suit or out of court settlement.

    That is wrong.

    I have heard many CS come down with headahes, congestion, sinus issues and the likes for many years to no avail or consideration that there prehaps were work-place contributing factors.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Folks, please get a perspective on this story. Mould actually occurs in all buildings and is really only a threat to young children, the very old, Immune deficient folks and those with an inherent respiratory problem. Yes in some buildings excessive mould builds up mainly because the humidity has remained above 50%. The A/C folks and lawyers tend to overdo this mould issue for obvious reasons.

    See base Q & A here:

    Anyhow the demolition of a Government asset will require to go through the PMFL bidding process the way I read it. Just lower the humidity in the building to less than 40%, clean the ducts and the mould will abate.

    This building is a perfect museum site. Remove the walls and get back to the original fire safety design. It is close to the Cruise passengers and it will not be a waste of a Government asset to demolish it.

    • Bobby Anonymous says:

      And what are you going to put in this Museum, may I add???

      • Anonymous says:

        You could start with the Public Management and Finance Law. Add the prototype bar at Stingray City, might as well add the copy of FOI law used by the ministery of finance tourism and development. A few dolphin sanctuaries and shark tanks should be available soon. Rollover Policy? the list could go on and on…

    • visitor from nj says:

      There is a such thing as a sick building and yes it can come from mold.  It is common that this happens especially if there is not good ventilation.  here is another link to look at:

  10. Uncivl Servant says:

    On a positive note, it is still 27.3 times safer than the Tower Building was prior to its demise.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Stop spreading seeds of fear and defeat that’s your problem. There’s the Human rights commission there’s the lawyers, the courts and privy council to appeal to. stop thinking like a Caymanian. If the lawyers keep files how in the world can the case disappear. You have to stay on top of your lawyer to make sure he’s working for you and not them! this often happens in civil suits where the insurance company pays off the attorney.



    • Anonymous says:

      So I guess after all the licks they took and still taking about spending too much Kurt and Alden and the PPM Government may have made a good decision to build a new Governemnt Adminsitration Building.  Given the fact that it is now public knowledge that the Glass House is a sick builidng, who it is again that McKeeva say he going put in there?

      It will cost almost as much a new buliding to refurbish the Glass House to acceptable standards. That’s why Kurt and them decided to condemn it, demolish it as soon as the new builiding is opened, build a daycare/afterschool facility for civil servants children and use the balance of the property for a nice shaded green area for George Town. Common sense! Vision!

  12. noname says:

     I have worked for two of the HVAC maintenance companies on island and brought this situation to my superiors and people in power in the snival service, that is should be remediated, but was poo pooed by all. Why, lack of trade skill knowledge and because it was a good source of revenue. My suggestion for the situation is DO NOT spend anymore money on that building. Demolish it and turn the area in to a green zone.

    Good Luck

  13. Young Caymanian says:

    OOOO….Great! Just dandy…and my Mother has been working in there for HOW LONG! Peachy.

    • Anonymous says:

      So when are these civil servant employees going to get a good lawyer and file a class action law suit to support their cause and loss of good health. They should be compensated! Its time to grow up socially and economically. Stop taking B.S.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if there’ll be any public lawsuits from these health complaints (i.e.: unsafe work environments)…?

    Then again, if any are filed against the government, I’m sure they’ll disappear…

    • Puleeze says:

      Civil Servants cant even voice their opinions freely and openly so why do you think they could sue Government? One of the top Law Firms on island has supressed its mold reports for years and their staff dont seem to be able to do anything about it so I dont see how Civil Servants will be able to do any better!

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh, I agree – trust me. I’ve been working in governmental agencies in Cayman now for a number of years and I know how inefficient many things are. I think with something as serious as this, however, that if one was to ‘keep on top of it’ I’m sure some results would come to fruition.

        Many people seem to forget that the government is beholden to us, the people – whether or not we pay taxes. If someone had photographic evidence of horrible working conditions in a governmental building, or some sort of paper trail in terms of complaints/comments/suggestions on improvement then something would be done.

        Besides, I’m sure there are many lawyers out there who would sublimate at the thought of being a part of a criminal lawsuit against the government.

    • Anonymous says:

      maybe it is why health care is free for the civil servants.