InFab disappointed, embarrassed by workers’ lapse in observing safety regulations at GRA site

-Managing Director

Industrial Steel Fabrications (InFab), which is constructing a new roof for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) headquarters on Camp Street, is being extra vigilant to make sure that its workers follow the company’s safety regulations.

Managing Director Jerry Goveia noted that since Stabroek News published a photograph showing workers at the site operating without safety gear, he has faced personal disappointment and professional embarrassment.

“As a consequence of your pictures, GRA came to us with concerns as did the Ministry of Social Protection (Department of Labour). It was not good for us and created quite a few difficulties. It was clear that our guys were not doing the things they were supposed to do… there is no excuse for it,” Goveia told Stabroek News on Monday.

Industrial Steel Fabrications (InFab) workers who were seen without safety gear on September 5.

According to him, he was personally disappointed because he and his company have invested a lot of time and effort over the years into developing and implementing a safety code.

“It was disappointing for me, individually, in light of the work put in over the years in trying to make it better. We are one of the more safety conscious companies in the country. We have six safety code lectures and are the only local construction company that has a safety code system with booklets and training sessions. We run four training sessions where they are paid incentive bonus based on the ability to write and pass the safety code tests. We provide safety boots, safety harnesses, safety hats, and eyewear and in fact the Ministry of Social Protection uses our safety code,” he explained.

He further noted that in attempting to make safety a priority at its construction sites, his company has come up against a culture that is dismissive. The workers at the time of the image were disassembling a scaffold used to erect parts of the roof and were being lazy about their safety, Goveia said.

“Safety is cultural issue. We are in a position where we have to fight the culture to put safety in place,” he stressed, while noting that both GRA and the Department of Labour demanded that steps be put in place to prevent further infractions.

This was achieved, he explained, through a long meeting to re-familiarise the site supervisor with the safety regulations and his responsibilities under same.

Despite the difficulties, Goveia was happy that the infraction was highlighted. “It is good when these things come to light so we can fix them. It is important for us as a company for safety regulations to be respected and for guys to do things properly,” he said.

Work at the site continues with InFab’s team presently working on the roof of the canteen. It is expected that the entire project will be completed by the last week in October.

Unlike most roofs, the new roof is being constructed with aluminum cladding, which is one third the weight of steel. Goveia said that based on the information provided to his company by government engineers, the fabricated cladding would not put too much stress on the building.

The $50 million roof repairs were made necessary by the leaking of the present roof.

In June of this year, Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia had noted that structural issues mean that the contractor will be forced to construct the roof with material lighter than zinc sheets.

“The building is sinking, so we have been told that you have to use minimal weight,” Statia explained at the time.

Stabroek News had previously reported the complaints of staff, who said having to work in the building which is infested with mold was making them sick. The mold had developed as a result of numerous leakages in the building, which consistently floods whenever it rains.

Speaking with Stabroek News in August, 2015, Chairman of the GRA Board Rawle Lucas had referred to the roof as a “sieve” and explained that some staff and customers are forced to use umbrellas while in the building because of leaks.

Five days later, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan told the National Assembly that the government was looking to relocate the GRA office as the Camp Street office was “not fit for occupation.”

Jordan told the National Assembly that the building was found to be “structurally…not in keeping with the activity for the people in there.” He added that things were made worse by an earth tremor that occurred in July, 2015 following which the building had to be evacuated. There were reports of it swaying and subsequently cracks were observed.

GRA is renting the building from the National Insurance Scheme for $5 million a month. In October 2012, GRA began its move into the building but not before a consultancy firm was hired at a cost of $4.5 million to prepare the building for occupancy. Government would later award a contract for a whopping $227.1 million to complete and modify the building so that it could be occupied by the GRA.

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