Qualfon has confirmed that several employees fell ill during a power-outage at its Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara location.
The company refuted earlier reports that employees were prevented from leaving the premises Tuesday afternoon after the power failure and subsequent drain of a back-up battery.
Qualfon, a call centre, also said the building has three emergency exits rather than the front door that an earlier report had stated was the only means of entry and exit.
Company officials had declined to speak with the media at the time of the incident.
Following is the full text of Qualfon’s statement.
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20th, Qualfon’s Georgetown II office, located at Lot 2 Goodverwagting, East Coast Demerara, lost electrical power due to a faulty breaker. Using a backup battery system, normal operations continued while technicians worked on fixing the problem. Due to the power drain on the battery, the air conditioning units stopped operating. Soon after, the management team ceased normal business operations and invited all employees to step outside for fresh air while the team continued to troubleshoot the power outage. In a calm and orderly fashion, approximately 250 employees exited the building through the front door and did not require the use of the other three emergency exits.
During this time, several employees fell ill. Qualfon immediately transported employees to the hospital. A total of 18 employees received medical attention. Additionally, Qualfon sent both its staff nurse and the chaplain on staff to the hospital to provide additional support for employees. After investigation, it was determined that during the power outage, employees were not exposed to harmful conditions inside the building. Management received reports stating that all employees who were treated have been released from the hospital and will be returning to work soon.
A change of shift occurred at 4 p.m. and the early-shift employees were dismissed. About 200 employees arrived at the building and were informed of the situation. They remained outside the building. Employees were allowed to leave, but most stayed in the event that they could go to work.
At about 8 p.m., the electrical and AC service was restored. At 8:30 p.m., Qualfon managers determined the building was safe and comfortable to resume normal business operations, and the 200 employees were invited into the office. Business resumed as usual and without incident.
In response to the events on Tuesday, Qualfon is working to perform a complete evaluation of its electrical systems.
“This is an unfortunate series of events, and we feel terrible for those who got sick after the power outage. We assure our employees and the community at large that our offices are a safe working environment, and we will continue to ensure that the health and safety of our employees remains our first priority,” said Sherwin Welcome, Site Director, Qualfon Georgetown II.