9 workplace deaths recorded in 5 months

…some public-sector entities are “tragedies waiting to happen”— Labour Minister

With at least nine persons losing their lives as a result of workplace accidents within the past five months, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton has announced that the presence of Labour and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Officers will be beefed up at worksites within the public sector, as some of them are “tragedies waiting to happen”.

Dead: Cicero Ferreira Pereira

Seven of the deaths occurred in the mining areas, while the remaining two happened on construction sites – one being at the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown. Hamilton revealed that when he took control of the Labour Ministry, it was lacking staff in key departments.
“We have all these mining communities and areas, and no one to supervise activities for mining and forestry and what conditions people work under. There is nobody there to say to miners this is not the way you should be mining [or] people will die…,” the Minister noted.
To ensure full compliance with OHS policies, he said the Labour Ministry has been engaging with officials from across every region to ensure that their needs are met.
“I have visited all the regions. I have had conversations with all the Regional Democratic Councillors, all the municipalities so that I can get an overview of what is lacking in their regions.”

Dead: Clavor Paul

As such, he committed to establishing regional OHS offices.
According to Minister Hamilton, he intends to ensure that there are two Labour Officers and two OHS Officers functioning in each region, except for Region Four which will be split into subdivisions with Labour and OHS Officers responsible for Georgetown and the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara respectively.
With regard to acquiring the technical staff, Hamilton disclosed that he has been engaging the Public Service Ministry as he intended to put measures in place to ensure that there was full compliance with OHS policies. He said that he was hoping to have the officers in place by early next year. He added that the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC) would recommend persons to be trained.
“I don’t want a situation whereby I have to send people from Region Four to go and manage Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).” The officers must be from the region, they are acquainted with the region and will do a better job…,” the Labour Minister noted.
Once the persons are identified, they will be brought to Georgetown where they will be trained for four to six months.

Tragedies waiting to happen
Come 2021, Hamilton said that Labour Officers and OHS Officers would be paying more attention to worksites within the public sector. He pointed out, “I have journeyed across this country and visited public-sector entities that are tragedies waiting to happen where people will die and lose limbs if they are not rectified.”
According to him, Labour Officers and OHS Officers, for whatever reason, are of the view that they must only supervise worksites within the Private Sector. Minister Hamilton made it clear that this is not the case as the “law is for everybody”.
“I have said to Labour Officers, the same way you pay attention to the Private Sector, the same way you must pay attention to the public sector. Because in a public-sector agency you might have a tyrant running the place and because he/she is unsupervised by the labour department he/she thinks they can do anything with employees.

Labour Minister
Joseph Hamilton

“Those things will change, it has to change, because the same way you look at the Private Sector, you have to look at the public sector whether it be hospitals, whether it be Ministries, agencies regarding labour relation issues and occupational health and safety issues,” he added.
Moreover, the Minister said that at the level of Occupational Health and Safety, the Ministry now has to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, he said that there has been continuous collaboration with the Health Ministry to fashion the way forward.

Worksite deaths
Among the mining deaths that occurred this year is that of 20-year-old Clavor Paul. In mid-December, the miner was killed after the walls of a pit he was working in at St Elizabeth Backdam, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), caved in. Police said that at the time of the incident, Paul, of St Ignatius Village, Central Rupununi, was operating a ‘marrock engine’. Meanwhile, in September, Donston John, 59, died at a mining pit at Konawaruk Backdam at Whitewater Mountain, Region Eight , after rocks caved in on him.
In July, Brazilian miner Cicero Ferreira Pereira, 55, was killed after a 200-pound rock crushed him to death while he was working at Puruni Mines in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). He was employed with Hard Rock Mining Company, Puruni Mines.
Also, a 69-year-old engineer died in September after he fell from the fourth floor of a construction site at Happy Acres, East Coast Demerara (ECD). Dead is Keith Scipio of Lot 12 Kissoon Scheme, Good Hope, ECD.
Based on Police reports, Scipio went to work at the construction site of a four-storey steel and concrete building where he held a meeting with all the workers on the fourth floor after which everyone went back to work. Subsequently, the engineer was observed walking towards a hole, which is located at the centre of the building, and he fell through to the bottom.
Sanitation worker Kevin Smith of Cummings Lodge, ECD, was killed on November 9, 2020, after the external lift he was using at the Infectious Diseases Hospital collapsed.
The recent mining deaths have triggered joint probes by the Labour Ministry and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).