Guyana Fire Service (GFS) and public hospital officials yesterday confirmed that the failure of the Qualfon Call Centre’s mechanical ventilation system in the aftermath of a power outage led to nearly 20 workers being rushed for treatment after suffering fainting spells on Tuesday.
Up to yesterday, Qualfon had yet to release a statement on the situation, which saw nearly 20 workers at the company’s Plaisance Call Centre being rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital after falling ill at the worksite.
A report from the Georgetown Public Hos-pital, through its Public Relations Officer, Mitzy Campbell, said the workers’ fainting spells were due to the lack of sufficient oxygen when the mechanical ventilation system and the back-up power source failed.
Campbell said that all the employees were treated and sent away on Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, GFS Public Relations Officer Andrew Holder said nothing was wrong in terms of the design and layout of the call centre building, since it was intended to shut out noise.
However, he said there was a blackout and the back-up power supply that was automated, failed to kick in and the situation escalated because there was no proper system in place in the event that the mechanical ventilation failed. Additionally, Holder told Stabroek News that the evacuation efforts were not done in a timely manner. “Too many people were in an enclosed room without proper ventilation,” he opined.
An employee attached to the office of Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle told this newspaper yesterday that the Ministry of Labour did not have any information on the Qualfon situation but was working on it.
When Stabroek News visited Qualfon’s Beterver-wagting and Plaisance offices in an effort to secure a comment from officials on the incident yesterday, they refused to shed any light on the situation. Qualfon is one of the largest private employers in the country.
On Tuesday afternoon, the situation became chaotic when power failed at the Plaisance call centre and its back-up power supply failed to start. Some of the employees were seen screaming and panting for breath, while others were writhing on the floor.
The building was evacuated soon after but the confusion continued outside at the entrance and the convulsing and fainting workers were rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Qualfon official at the company’s Beterverwagt-ing head office had said on Tuesday that it was a heat build-up in the atmosphere that caused some of the employees to faint. However, he said most of them were stable and their families were contacted.