The Liberian government has imposed a fine of US$100K on the Liberia Agricultural Company due to security breaches that led to the deaths of six employees, as well as inflicting eleven others with serious injuries.
Speaking to newsmen on Thursday at the Ministry of Information’s regular press briefing in Monrovia, Labor Minister Neto Zarzar Lighe said “The money is to be paid within 30 days and LAC is further directed to fully comply with the labor laws of Liberia and relevant regulations regarding compensation and other benefits to the victims of this incident.”
He said the explosion that caused the deaths and injuries was due to negligence that also caused mechanical failure with underlying factors that gave rise to the explosion.
According to him, the Ministry of Labour is convinced that the recklessness and lack of appropriate occupational safety and health programs on the plantation, exacerbated by inadequate supervision to ensure compliance with applicable laws and industrial best practices, is the direct and proximate cause of the explosion for which LAC must bear the ultimate responsibility.
He mandated that “each family of the deceased employees receive US$4,500 in cash and in kind to cover funeral and burial expenses. Children of the deceased employees should receive US$75.00 per family for the first semester to assist them with school preparations while each of the injured employees should receive US$25.00.”
Mr. Lighe said apart from the benefits that will be paid to the beneficiaries of the deceased employees, LAC will provide free education up to high school in the LAC high school system for the children of deceased employees.
“Spouses of the deceased employees will be allowed to remain in their houses on the plantation to accommodate them and their children if they are desirous to remain on the plantation,” Minister Lighe added.
He stressed that the LAC management should provide adequate and appropriate benefits to the families of those who lost their lives as a result of the accident.
The Minister named the factors that caused the explosion as increase in the amount of steam going into the dryer due to alternation in the size of the pipe that limited the amount of the steam without reference to the manufacturer’s specifications and taking into account the capacity and integrity of the tank.
He also said a decrease in the amount of steam leaving the condensate tank to obstruction created by the insertion of a cylinder in the vent pipe thus creating excessive heat or pressure build up within the condensate which may have caused the explosion.
According to him, “There is no safety and health program as required by the concession agreement in line with the Ministry of Labour and Industry best practices.”
“We also observed from the accident scene that there was no emergency preparedness and evacuation plans, nor was there any dressing room or locker room designated for male and female workers to change from regular clothes to factory attires prior to the work.
He said applicable programs to ensure safety must include employee safety and health, handbook, hazard and high energy lockout, among others.