ANY industrial accident, whether it results in serious injury or death, must be viewed as heart-wrenching. It leaves behind unimaginable pain–both physical and emotional– and a lifetime of grief.
The untimely death of BOSAI employee Neptrid Hercules comes on the heels of a number of fatal mining pit cave-ins and the unfortunate death of Gafoors delivery clerk, Cindy Jattan. In the latter case, a wooden rack with a variety of hardware materials and equipment fell from above, crushing the young woman and injuring two of her colleagues.
Hercules’ death is particularly devastating for several reasons: according to the reports out of Linden, Region 10, no one saw when the mining pit “swallowed” the bulldozer that the 59-year-old was operating.
In fact, the incident occurred around 04:00hrs while he was clearing overburden. The ravine was so deep that he was covered beneath approximately 100 feet of earth. It took four days of continuous digging and the use of metal detectors to find the machine and eventually Hercules’ lifeless body.
No one could hear his cries for help. The post-mortem revealed that he died from suffocation, which likely occurred within minutes of him being covered.
A stalwart in the mining sector, having given some four decades of his life to the industry, he was scheduled to retire in September.
With that said, no amount of money can compensate the family for his untimely death. His devastated son who was among family members on site, was emotional after witnessing the remains of his father still pinned by earth in the barely visible excavator.
Some say that the family will at least get some closure because his body was recovered. But actually, this is the beginning of a long grieving process and search for answers.
Why he was doing that sort of work at that hour and without anyone around is anyone’s guess. The company has got to provide a proper explanation; the relatives, friends, the government and all Guyanese must accept nothing less. There must be no excuses and apologetic comments. There must be action.
Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton has already said publicly that the company will be made “to answer tough questions on safety.” He has also promised that the preliminary report which will be ready any day now will be made public. All of the company’s operations have been suspended indefinitely.
This is good news that will bring some level of comfort to Hercules’ grieving relatives.
Sadly, this is not the first tragedy to befall the company and most likely it will not be the last, unless those in authority put their feet down and put their words and recommendations into action.
In 2013, three employees were killed when a 767 truck ran over their pickup in a mining site. The following year, Bertram Pollard was crushed to death by a heavy-duty truck.
In 2021, Fabian Anthony, a former heavy-duty mechanic sued the company for close to $100 million in damages for a puncture he claimed he sustained to his skull while on the job in February, 2020. He said in his court documents that because of the company’s negligence he lost 85 per cent of his memory, some 75 per cent potency, and has spent millions on medical care. He said that the $2 million offered by the company as full settlement was grossly inadequate. It is unclear what the status of this case is.
The tragic reality is that most workplace deaths and injuries are avoidable and preventable and simply require awareness of proper safety protocols by both the employee and employer.
Poor lighting, ambient temperature, air pollution and noise pollution are among the environmental factors that can contribute to such accidents. Mechanical issues and human factors are also major contributors.
If all safety requirements are obeyed and there is constant communication between employer and employee, training, regular maintenance and inspection of machinery and equipment, the avoidance of shortcuts, good management of space and the use of safety gear at all times, the number of workplace accidents will drop dramatically.
Developing an employee safety plan with feedback from employees at all levels, ensuring supervisors are monitoring and reporting on the progress of all safety measures, providing avenues for employees to share safety concerns and ideas for improving safety and testing all equipment before use could be helpful.
The time for action is now. Guyana cannot afford to lose another skilled worker to an industrial accident. All stakeholders must come on board to ensure that all workplaces are safe.