– Labour Ministry collects $30M from errant employees
Industrial deaths recorded a horrible year, with 24 persons killed to date, and with more than 50% of them from the mining industry alone.
This is compared to 14 deaths recorded last year and would be a worrying 400% increase from 2007, the Ministry of Labour disclosed yesterday in its end-of-year report.
Describing 2010 as a sad year for labour, the Ministry indicated that an analysis of the deaths shows that more than 50% are in the mining sector with another 17% from the forestry sector.
This is dishearteningly consistent with last year’s figures which indicated that logging and mining remained the deadliest jobs locally.
More than half of the persons killed were between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
According to Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir, too many chances are being taken with the lives of the workers.
“…we have to reduce the risks of accidents and try to eliminate them from workplaces. These are avoidable losses of life and employers and workers have to better observe safety and health protocols and not take chances with the limb and life of workers.”
13 mining deaths
In the mining sector, 13 persons died, while sawmilling accounted for four persons. The security and construction sectors accounted for two each while one utility worker was killed. Two persons were listed under “unaccounted”.
Among the notables for the year was the death of a Barama Company Limited employee whose remains were found in a wood chipper machine in the veneer factory at the Buck Hall site, Esssequibo River.
In April, Minister Nadir, had described the deadliest jobs as being the mining and forestry sectors. Almost 50% of the deaths over the last four years occurred in the two sectors.
In 2007, two of the five-workplace deaths were in the forestry sector while in 2008, this figure doubled. Of those ten persons, three died from logging-related incidents and two from mining.
Last year, the deaths went up even further with 14 persons losing their lives – including four from logging incidents and one from mining.
Eight persons were killed in the first quarter of 2010 alone. Of this, five died from pit collapses and other mining-related events.
Back in April, Nadir had also disclosed that in the forestry sector, the felling of trees had seen several persons killed over the years.
A clear indication that proper procedures were not followed. Packing of the logs and transportation out of the timber concessions has also seen several accidents, with deaths also being recorded.
However, while the deadliest jobs are in the mining and forestry sectors, industrial accidents were the most prevalent in the agricultural sector with over 900 occurring last year. Almost 700 of these accidents, involving workers from GuySuCo and from the rice industry, were blamed on persons stepping on or being hit by objects.
Regions Five and Six were the most dangerous regions to work in, according to figures shown to Kaieteur News.
Over-exertion (strain) and falling objects were also major causes of injuries, with almost 120 persons being hurt.
After agriculture, the manufacturing industry was also determined to be a risky place to be in, with more than 100 persons suffering injuries mainly to the upper body.
“What is most significant here is that while forestry and mining have the highest number of deaths as compared by sectors, accidents only account for about 5% there, with the majority of incidents being in the agri sector,” Minister Nadir pointed out.
In the areas of industrial action, the Minister said that he was forced to condemn
workers of the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Linden Municipality, who took industrial action, deeming their action a breach of the Constitution’s Essential Services Act, under which a number of entities fall.
“…the Labour Administration will continue to strengthen the capacity to effectively do its work and continue to give vigorous representation to workers who feel that they have been treated unjustly,” Nadir warned.
In 2010, the Ministry received over 1100 complaints from employees and settled almost 900, which brought in approximately $30M on behalf of the workers from errant employers.
“The Government is committed to ensuring the rights of workers are respected, labour laws are strictly observed and interventions are made where employers fail to honour their obligations.”
The Ministry also disclosed that it held a series of promotional campaigns focused on educating workers on the safety protocols of the workplace and the labour laws.
“These campaigns were supported by the launch in early December of the highly sought after Labour Laws Primer.”
In 2010, the Labour Ministry conducted an “extensive” inspection program for worksites to ensure that workers fully benefit from the protection afforded under the labour laws.
Major outreaches were conducted at workplaces between Crabwood Creek and Corriverton, Rose Hall, Port Mourant and New Amsterdam, East Bank Demerara, Kwakwani, Linden, Mahdia, Bartica, Port Kaituma, Vreed-en-Hoop, Parika and Mabaruma.
“These have contributed to a much safer working environment. In all, over 3000 inspections were done in 2010.
While these are 25% less than what was planned by the Ministry, emphasis was placed on the quality of inspections and the follow-up to ensure that employers complied with the citations of the labour officers,” the report said.(Leonard Gildarie)
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