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Occupational safety visits to Guyana offshore drill-ships too costly for Labour Department to conduct

Consultant at the Ministry of Social Protection’s Labour Department, Francis Carryl.

The Labour Department cannot afford the money to inspect oil exploration vessels offshore Guyana to ensure they are complying with the country’s occupational safety and health laws, Labour Department Consultant Francis Carryl said Friday.

“When we can afford to go out there, we will go to see exactly what is happening and I doubt whether we can go more than once or twice per year but we would like to go to any factory onshore, ten, twelve times a year, a day or whatever it is but let’s understand the constraints and difficulties of getting out there,” he said.

He made the startling disclosure at a meeting between top officials of labour, immigration and social services bodies and several representatives of oil industry-related companies.

Asked whether there is an occupational safety and health representative on each drill-ship who interfaces with the Labour Department, Carryl said “I cannot answer you that at this point in time”.

In light of financial and other constraints, Carryl was pressed on whether there are representatives on a joint occupational safety and health committee. He responded, “we have not had any update from them in a while but we have people many times, we interface with the operatives out there who, whether they lie to us or not, is another matter.”

Guyana’s Occupational Safety and Health Act provides for the establishment of a Joint Workplace Safety and Health Committee whose minutes of meetings must be provided to the Chief Occupational Safety and Health Officer of the Ministry of Social Protection. The Workplace Safety and Health representative’s responsibilities also include identifying potentially dangerous or hazardous situations, testing of items and inspecting sites where a worker is critically injured or killed and reporting findings to government’s Chief Occupational Safety and Health Officer.

Left to Right: Head of Immigration and Support Services at the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Carol Lewis-Primo; Junior Labour Minister Keith Scott and Labour Department Advisor, Francis Carryl.

Carryl told participants that under Guyana’s laws, the offshore vessels are legally considered factories to which all rules, and occupational safety and health, along with general labour standards, apply.

Adviser on Occupational Safety and Health, Gwyneth King raised eyebrows when she said she was unaware that oil exploration and production-related vessels were operating offshore Guyana.

Carryl said from what he was told by the most senior executive of ExxonMobil that the cost per trip to fly by helicopter to one of the drill-ships was GYD$2 million and that visitors have to undergo simulated training before embarking on the journey to one of the drill-ships.

Based on experiences by the media, no physical training is required before visiting the drill-ships. Visitors must view an extensive video presentation on safety before boarding the helicopter, on arrival on the drill-ship and before boarding the aircraft on the return journey.

Carryl added that it would be easier for Labour Department officials to visit large gold mines in contrast to the offshore oil and gas operations.

Representatives of contracting companies for the oil and gas sector meeting with officials f the Ministry of Social Protection.

The Department of Labour official said already representatives of ExxonMobil and local content providers have been called in and told that they must obey Guyana’s laws. “We’d have them know that these laws are sacrosanct in Guyana. I don’t care where you came from, you have to obey the laws of Guyana,” he said.

The Labour Department official sought to assure attendees that “we are not delinquent in any way” but “we are constrained by circumstances and cost of knowing first-hand what is happening out there”.

Junior Minister responsible for Labour, Keith Scott highlighted that Guyana was addressing the issue of non-standard forms of work. Presentations were also done by the Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle; Chief Recruitment and Manpower Officer, Valerie Moore; Chief Statistics Officer, Saskia Eastman; Legal Officer, Kimberly Yearwood; Occupational Safety and Health Consultant, Gwyneth King, and Head of Immigration and Support Services at the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Carol Lewis-Primo.