The Liberian government, through the Minister of Labor, has found the Liberia Agriculture Company or LAC guilty of the explosion that left at least six persons dead and several wounded early this year.
Labor Minister Neto Zarzar Lighe told a news conference last week that following an investigation, the Liberian Government, from all indications, established that the company, based in the Grand Bassa County, was guilty of the accident and fined US$100,000 to be paid into government’s revenues within a month.
On January 22, 2015, several employees were admitted at a hospital run by the Liberia Agriculture Company or LAC in Grand Bassa County, following an explosion which took place at the company’s rubber processing plant.
Out of the 17 wounded as a result of the explosion, according to State radio’s Grand Bassa County Correspondent, 9 were critical, while a few others received minor injuries.
The explosion left the company’s entire rubber processing machinery completely destroyed, while the building was nearly demolished, according to the correspondent. The immediate cause of the explosion was not revealed.
“In view of the investigation and in consultation with the Minister of Justice, the Ministry of Labor hereby imposes a fine of US$100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) on LAC to be deposited into government revenue within thirty (30) days, beginning April 8, 2015. LAC is further directed to fully comply with the Labor Practices Law of Liberia and relevant regulations regarding compensation and other benefits to the victims of this incident,” the minister said.
According to him, the Ministry of Labor was convinced that the reckless disregard and the 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, were the direct and proximate cause of the explosion for which the Management of LAC must bear the ultimate responsibility.
Minister Lighe also noted that each family of a deceased employee is being paid an amount of US$100.00 and 2 bags of $50 kg rice up to the time when final payment of benefits will be made, while children of the deceased employees receive the amount of US$75.00 per family for the first semester to assist them for school preparations. He said each of the injured employees must receive the amount of US$25.00,as well as payment of death benefits, among others. consistent with the Labor Practices Law of Liberia, and in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA, the payments will be made to the beneficiaries of the deceased employees. Discussions were ongoing to conclude the package and LAC has proposed an additional amount in addition to the provisions of the CBA and Labor Practices Law that each family of the deceased employees receive the total amount of US$4,500.00 in cash and kind to cover funeral and burial expenses.
Min. Lighe added each injured employee will be paid an amount US$30.00 and receives a bag of 50kg rice monthly in addition to salary until the resumption of work, apart from benefits to be paid to the beneficiaries of the deceased employees.
LAC will provide free education up to high school at the LAC High School System for children of the deceased employees; employment opportunities to spouses of the deceased if they (the spouses) are willing to take up employment on the Plantation in areas where they are most suitable, while spouses of the deceased employees will be allowed to remain in their houses on the Plantation to accommodate them and their children if they accept, and medical services will also be provided to the spouses and their registered children at LAC Hospital while on the Plantation.
“Provision of one (1) 50kg bag of rice and a monthly allowance/stipend of US$50.00 will also be made available to the spouse of each deceased employee who remains on the Plantation provided that the spouse does not accept employment,” the minister pointed out.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor