The Inter-Ministerial and Agency Investigative Committee probing the recent fire incident at the Sime Darby Plantations in Bomi County has submitted its findings and recommendations.
On the morning of September 20, 2015, a fire incidence occurred at one of the chemical storage facilities within the sime Darby Plantations and gutted the storage. Preliminary investigation showed that no death occurred. However, ten volunteer-fire-fighters who helped in the fight to extinguish the fire were affected by heat exhaustion mostly.
According to a release issued in Monrovia yesterday, immediately upon receiving the news of the incident, an Inter-Ministerial/Agency Investigative Committee was dispatched to the plantations where the team held discussions with both management and workers’ representatives.
During the tour of the facilities and its surrounding areas, the team established that the warehouse storing the chemicals was destroyed by the fire, and that remnants of the burnt chemicals were a major source of an offensive odoe.
Given this toxic odor, the management issued nose masks to workers, students, as well as visitors to avoid the toxic (chemicals) smell released into the environment in the aftermath of the explosion. The cause of the fire was traced to an electrical shock which overheated different chemicals stored in varying concentration and under the abnormal temperature of each chemical.
The team further observed that due to the lack of trained fire-fighters, fire-fighting equipment and logistics, the fire was not extinguished in time, thereby causing a huge loss to the investment. Upon completion of its investigation, the Committee recommendedthat Sime Darby Plantations as a company, thoroughly cleanup and properly dispose of the chemical debris at its own cost on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instruction. It also recommendedthat Sime Darby should not dispose the debris of burnt materials without permit from the Environmental Protection Agency; desist from spraying herbicides during the raining season.
And that Angel Garlo, who was severely injured in both eyes while fighting the fire with an extinguisher during the incident, is sent for advance medical treatment abroad and that all other victims who were discharged be monitored and treated.
The committee also recommended that the Company applies to the EPA for permit for importing, handling and storing chemicals, as well as ensure that its occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regime is strengthened for the protection of employees; that Sime Darby procures and maintains the requisite Fire-fighting equipment and recruit, train and maintain fire warden, as well as the establishment of a Fire Department as was previously recommended by the Liberia National Fire Service, and that a mobile clinic be established and maintained over a period of three months in nearby towns and villages to respond to any possible case from the fire incidence.
Accordingly, the release said, in a bid to ensure full compliance of the above recommendations, Sime Darby Plantations has been requested to liaise with the Government , through its technicians comprising the Ministry of Labour, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA and Liberia National Fire Service, LNFS, (Joint Inter-ministerial Committee) for gradual implementation.
Meanwhile, the Joint Inter-ministerial Committee has expressed gratitude to the workers, workers’ union and Management of Sime Darby for their collaboration during the investigation, and at the same time, assured them that as Government endeavours to promote a dignified and conducive working environment, the issue of occupational health and safety would at all times be guaranteed for all employees.-Edited by George Barpeen