TAFE feels heat in air-con drama

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
The TAFE Annex building
Camera IconThe TAFE Annex building

Students at a TAFE campus in the Pilbara were forced to work and study in rooms recording 37C after air-conditioning in its only building broke down and tiny replacement units were installed in the lecturer’s office and break room.

A North Regional TAFE student wrote to the North West Telegraph last week, stating that conditions at the South Hedland Training Annex, which hosts metalwork and automotive courses, had been unbearable since the air-con malfunction.

The apprentice, who asked not to be named, said the system had broken down at the beginning of October, causing the workshop, classroom and break area to reach temperatures of up to 37C.

He said the only “reprise” from the heat was to spend lunch breaks sitting in vehicles or at the shopping centre to escape the “unbearable” temperatures.

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“There are air conditioners here but the complex is old and run down so they’ve broken down,” he said.

“Hedland has two campuses and there hasn’t been a reasonable effort put in by NRT management to find a way the trade department can utilise the main campus‘ facilities and leave this campus empty until adequately repaired.”

The student said the only response by NRT was to install one small portable air-conditioning unit in the lecture and break room.

“We even supplied our own secondary evaporative cooler to help,” he said.

When questioned about conditions at the South Hedland campus, the North Regional TAFE managing director Kevin Doig said work was being done to repair the units as soon as possible.

“The NRT is working to ensure the faulty air conditioning is fixed as soon as possible,” he said.

“The full upgrade of the system is under way but won’t be completed this year.”

It is understood theory components of the automotive and metalwork classes have since shifted to the nearby Pundulmurra campus, also in South Hedland, but workshops are still being held at the Annex building.

Mr Doig said an additional portable air-conditioning unit had been purchased last Thursday, just days after the TAFE had been questioned by the North West Telegraph.

He said the faulty air-conditioning had broken down on October 24, nearly three weeks later than claimed by the student.

It was reported in January that up to 2000 NRT students in courses across the Kimberley and Pilbara had been told they would be sent home if they were not wearing long trousers and long-sleeve shirts at the hottest time of the year.

The move led to an outcry from mechanics across the two regions, who said there were no such requirements in the workplace because it was too hot and humid.

It also sparked questions in Parliament by Mining and Pastoral MLC Ken Baston and emphasised the concern about heat-related stress and illness.

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