‘Workers became more laid-back’: Day in Life of a standards officer

“[…] I had set goals for the south division—one of which was that our service would be excellent so that no one would complain about us. 

“I have this goal in my head; but when they decided to station all workers closer to home, the workers became more laid-back. Sometimes how the staffers deal with the public, the public would complain…”

Wired868 highlights the day-to-day lives of everyday Trinbagonians in our ongoing series entitled: ‘A day in the life…’ Today, we speak with an officer in the standards industry:

Photo: A standards officer inspects a tyre.

How long have you worked in the standards industry?

I have been working here for the past 26 years. Before I worked in the field of agriculture; that’s the field I am qualified in but I was laid off.  

In my current job, you just have to have a science degree. You would be surprised to know the amount of agriculture graduates, who work in this industry. A degree is really just to show you can learn.

What is your job title and duties?

I started as a standards officer one and basically I would have done inspections on the field and learned all the things our organisation inspects. As I got promoted, I began to get involved in stakeholder meetings and manage the new employees to train, teach and supervise. 

Presently, I am a standards officer three in my division, which is responsible for the inspection of tyres on foreign-used vehicles. I am considered a senior officer and team leader in this division. I am expected to manage two branches of my division.

Image: A satirical take on labour.

What is challenging about your job? 

People of course, the staff. There are some persons you have to speak with on many occasions about coming to work on time. I used to work in Macoya and then  I was assigned to work in San Fernando, which is closer to home for  me. I had set goals for the south division—one of which was that our service would be excellent so that no one would complain about us. 

I have this goal in my head; but when they decided to station all workers closer to home, the workers became more laid-back. Sometimes how the staffers deal with the public, the public would complain.  

We are dependent on head office for stationeries and supplies like hand sanitisers and gloves; and that can be a challenge. We would normally have a driver from head office bring stuff for us but he is used by the whole organisation. So sometimes, I would have to go up and collect our supplies and even carry up important documents that are needed in head office.

What is rewarding about my job? 

I like working close to home. Most of my years on the job, I did not work close to home. I love dealing with the public, I like giving good service. The position I hold today, I am supposed to sit at my desk and manage people, but because of the Covid-19 roster system and other issues I still end up doing hands-on work. I don’t believe the public should be affected by whatever is going wrong in any  organisation, and it takes nothing out of me to go downstairs an inspect a vehicle. It’s nothing  difficult to do.

Photo: A standards officer inspects a used car.

What are your work hours?

I work from 8am to 3pm from Monday to Friday. But if there is a vehicle to inspect at 3pm, I would not leave until that vehicle is inspected.

What time does your average day start?

Being a working mother, it is difficult—especially since Covid-19. I get up at 5am to prepare everything for my girls like breakfast and lunch and then get ready for work. I try to eat breakfast before I leave for work. Also before I leave, I would make sure that the  girls are up and ready because their online class sessions start at 8am.

On a normal day without Covid-19, it would have been a challenge in a different way because of the commute. I recently moved to a new area, so I would have to estimate [the time]. The girls may have had to get up at 5.30am, have breakfast and be ready to leave at least by 6.30 or 7am… They go to school in San Fernando, so I would expect traffic just getting them on the school compound. Then I would head to work and try my best to be in office for the latest 8.15am.

Image: A satirical take on motherhood.
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

How has Covid-19 affected your personal life?

As a mother, I am always thinking about having my home stocked with food because this pandemic is unpredictable. I am always planning ahead. Sometimes my girls complain because they may find ‘home food’ boring. It is an effort to get exercise and to get my children to exercise because they have gotten accustomed to just being inside all the time. My girls are getting hooked on these electronic devices and social media.

On an ordinary day, they would be at school and doing school activities, then they would have had after-school activities and when they get home they would have homework to do and they would be tired and go to bed. Because of online school, I had to get computers for my girls but I could have only afforded one before; so they had to share for a while. My first daughter did well in her exams last term, so one of my friends assisted in purchasing a computer for her that eased up my stress a lot.

There are certain persons I would usually visit like my brother but I have not been to his home in a while. My second daughter wanted to celebrate her birthday last year and we could not, so this year I did not want to disappoint her. It was stressful just thinking how I can plan this party and be safe at the same time. 

I had the party in an open-air venue and my daughter invited her friends. It was a picnic lime in groups of five.

Image: A satirical take on relationships in the time of Covid-19.

What adjustments have you made, in relation to Covid-19, at the workplace?

The public is not allowed to come into the office space, everything is done at the inspection station. If there are documents to be signed by me or other officers, we would sign them and the public would be on their way in no more than 15 to 20 minutes.  

Before Covid-19, the inspection time was longer. There is a sanitisation station and wash sink for the public to utilise. All staff members and public must wear masks at all times and I wash hands after every inspection.

On an average day, we used to inspect 20 to 30 vehicles. There was foreign exchange in the country and persons were free to buy vehicles. But since Covid-19, there is a marked decrease in the purchase of vehicles. We now inspect an average 9 to 10 vehicles per day in my division—that is why one of our inspection divisions, the one in Port of Spain, has closed down.  

Things have really slowed down a lot. I am just thankful to have a job.

Photo: A standards officer on the job.

Do you have concerns about possible exposure to virus?

I am always concerned about exposure. I don’t go to the very expensive groceries and the ones I go to have a lot of Venezuelans working there. The lanes are not very wide and when customers stand in line they are not careful. They do not social distance, they come up in your face sometimes, people don’t wear masks properly; I am always concerned!

I am grateful to be working in my division because I have heard in other divisions even when a possible threat of Covid-19 is reported, the division does not close.

What most frustrates you about life in the Covid-19 pandemic?

You cannot chart your future, because Covid-19 has made it unpredictable. You don’t know if you are going to have a job, you don’t know if you are going to live.  It has made life very scary.

Is there anything that motivates or encourages you about life in the pandemic?

I was able to spend time with my family. It has made me consider what is most important to me and encouraged me to do what is most important.

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About La Vaughn Phillips

La Vaughn Phillips
La Vaughn Phillips is a Wired868 intern and final year student at Costaatt, reading for her BA in Mass Communication. Her hobbies are photography, reading, singing, visiting and meeting unique places and people. Phillips believes everyone has potential and it's never too late to discover yours.

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