DOCOL officials to meet families of burnt employees

Officials of the Demerara Oxygen Company Limited (DOCOL) will be meeting today with relatives of three employees who were injured during an explosion on Friday.

Heera Persaud, 19, Rabindranauth Ramdhani, 22, both of Leonora, West Coast Demerara and Mirvel Richards, 19, of Bagotville, West Bank Demerara were still in much pain at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital yesterday.

Persaud and Ramdhani remained patients of the hospital’s High Dependency Unit. The men’s mothers said that while they have been speaking more their conditions have not improved much. Both men, according to their relatives, were suffering from high temperatures and were due for surgery at about 5.30 pm yesterday.

When this newspaper spoke with Richards, who is in the Male Surgical Ward, he said that he was in much pain and was in no position to discuss what happened at DOCOL on Friday. Richards, his mother said too, was also due for surgery.

Richards had earlier related to his father Collin Richards that he was fetching a cylinder which was leaking with two other employees. The cylinder subsequently exploded when they decided to put it down.

The men’s relatives yesterday said that while DOCOL representatives have been very supportive since the incident they are yet to hear from the company about compensation.

Rita Persaud and Indrapattie Ramdhani, both single parents, said that their sons were the main sources of income for their families. Even after their sons have been treated and released from the hospital, both women noted, the men will not be able to work for some time.

“Meh still have to hear wah this company got to say about supporting my son through this whole thing,” Indrapattie said. “But me going to make sure that they say something at this meeting tomorrow [today].”

Meanwhile, relatives also raised concerns about the procedures followed by the company after the explosion would have occurred. Since Friday, Persaud said, she has been hearing more about what took place and it has caused some questions to surface in her mind about whether proper safety procedures were followed after the incident.

“Since this thing happen all I been thinking about is my son’s safety,” Rita Persaud said. “I nah really had the time to think about the financial matter and so but I know that so far DOCOL promised to take care of the hospital expenses.”

Persaud and Ramdhani suffered severe burns to the face, arms, knees, abdomen and other parts of the body. Richards also suffered burns to the face, arms and back.

A senior fire official has since told Stabroek News that the injured men are alleging that there was a spark preceding the explosion.

He said that initial investigations have revealed that the three employees were refilling gas when something created a spark and ignited the gas.

It is unclear whether the Ministry of Labour has launched an investigation into the incident. Several efforts made to contact Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir for a comment yesterday were futile.

While relatives have said that the three men never complained about the working conditions at DOCOL they still feel that there is a need for an investigation to determine whether proper safety protocols are in place and whether they are being followed.

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