Labour Ministry probing DOCOL explosion

The Ministry of Labour (MoL) has launched an investigation into last Friday’s explosion at the Demerara Oxygen Company Limited (DOCOL).

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DOCOL Shameer Hoosein told Stabroek News on Thursday that after the incident last week officials from MoL visited the scene and an investigation is being conducted.

Last Friday, three employees suffered burns about the body after a gas cylinder exploded at the DOCOL’s Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) filling plant in Eccles. The men are currently patients at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and relatives say that their conditions are steadily improving.

DOCOL, Hoosein confirmed, has committed to paying all medical expenses for the injured employees. Earlier this week, the CEO said, he met individually with the mothers of the three men.

Heera Persaud and Rabindranauth Ramdhani, both of Leonora, West Coast Demerara, and Mirvel Richards of Bagotsville, West Bank Demerara sustained burns to the face, neck, abdomen and other parts of the body during the explosion. Richards’ mother has since voiced concerns about the condition of his face and how it will heal. The woman told Stabroek News recently that she believes some effort should be made to get the men better health care.

However, when questioned about this, Hoosein said that the doctor currently treating the men has said that their condition is improving and there is no need to refer them for further treatment at an overseas or any other medical institution.  “These men are possibly getting the best treatment available in Guyana and perhaps the best available in the Caribbean,” Hoosein said. If at any point it is recommended that the men be referred to another medical institution abroad then DOCOL will also consider paying those costs as well, he added.

Details of the incident have still not been made available. A resident had told this newspaper that after the 3pm explosion she saw three men on fire running at lightning-speed towards the front of the compound. The woman also said that she has never seen the employees of the gas plant wearing any safety clothing or head gear while conducting their duties.

The resident had also related that smoke was also coming from the cylinders that were already in the truck. The woman said that the other employees who were in the compound became confused and they too started to run. “Is like none of them didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Several efforts made to contact Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir for a comment on the matter have been futile. There has been no word from the MoL since the incident.

Section 74 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act says: “Where any notification is not required under section 69 or 70 and an accident, premature or unexpected explosion, fire, flood or inrush of water, failure of any equipment, machine, device, article, cave-in, subsidence, rockburst, or other incident as prescribed occurs at an industrial establishment, notice in writing of the occurrence shall be given to the Authority and to the committee, safety and health representative or trade union, if any, by the employer at such industrial establishment within two days of the occurrence containing such information and particulars as are prescribed.” It is unclear whether this written notice has been submitted by DOCOL.

The $80M LPG filling plant was opened in November 2008. Labour Minister Nadir had congratulated DOCOL on this initiative and applauded them for their efforts to ensure their safety of their labourers.

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