Update: Subcontractor’s Health and Safety aide dies in hole at Vreed-en-Hoop Shorebase; was not wearing safety gear- Labour Ministry

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 February 2024, 18:39 by Denis Chabrol

The Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Department  on Sunday said it has launched an investigation into a fatal accident that resulted in the death of a Health and Safety aide who was working with a subcontractor at Vreed-en-Hoop Shorebase.

The company and the Labour Ministry said the accident occurred at 6:40  Saturday evening at the shorebase construction site, Best Foreshore, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).

The Labour  Ministry identified the deceased as 36-year-old Health & Safety Helper, Rusbel Jesus Rengel Azocar, of San Felix, Venezuela. He was at the time employed by subcontractor, Gas Total Solution Inc. VEHSI said police and immediate family were informed.

While VEHSI declined to disclose the nationality of the victim or how the incident happened, the Labour Ministry said, “according to reports received from the company, Azocar was engaged in the task of placing a barrier around a hole with water on the southern half of the site’s quay wall.”

“During the process, he fell into the hole,” the Labour Ministry added.

Government’s OSH investigators said eyewitnesses alleged that Azocar “was not wearing a life jacket at the time of his fall, despite a mandate to wear same on the quay wall to prevent drowning.”

For its part, the Guyana Police Force said Azocar was placing ‘cones and danger tape’ around a hole as a signal to warn others of the hazard but unfortunately he fell into the hole himself. “The hole had water several feet in depth. Azocar, who was found in the hole facing head down, presumably drowned. Some witnesses activated the emergency response immediately but unfortunately, Azocar could not be rescued in time by his emergency response colleagues,” police said.

The quay wall slab demolition works have since been suspended. VEHSI also said the police and immediate family were informed.  “An investigation has been launched and work at the facility was suspended,” the company said.

Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton,  has expressed growing concern over injuries and accidents which occur on the job site.

“Having acknowledged the distress it causes for the loved ones of the deceased, the Minister therefore extends heartfelt sympathy to the affected families, colleagues, and friends,” the ministry quoted him as saying.

The OSH Department used the opportunity to reiterate the importance of adhering to workplace health and safety regulations to mitigate the likelihood of workplace accidents.

Vreed-En-Hoop Shorebase Inc said it “regrets this unfortunate loss of life and offers the family its condolences and support.”