Meatco accused of failing to provide interns with protective gear

The Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco)’s failure to provide interns with personal protective gear between February and December 2022 at its head office in Windhoek resulted in an intern being involved in a serious accident on 13 June 2022.

Kaino Paulus was a level 3 plumbing student at Namibia’s Institute of Mining and Technology (Nimt) and was at a job attachment at Meatco since February.

At the age of 25, Paulus’ life has been irrevocably affected after she was burnt when steam splashed on her thighs, buttocks and private parts while trying to open a steam pipe.

“It’s been a year and a few months and all that I get is a monthly allowance from the Social Security Commission (SSC), which is not enough to sustain me. I have been asking them to compensate me and provide permanent employment which I cannot get because of my condition, but until today, my request has not been granted,” Paulus says.

She claims she only received socks and gumboots when she began her internship.

“They could not even provide me with the necessary gloves to hold the steam pipe,” Paulus says.

She adds that Meatco has been working with steam for years, however, they don’t have the necessary protective gear for employees.

Since the incident, Meatco has not compensated Paulus, nor provided any form of employment, something she is demanding because her skin has still not healed.

“The damage on my skin has resulted in my inability to complete my studies and the best of my future is now cut, as my skin will never mend, yet the management as well as the rest of the members are quiet regarding my incident.”

Paulus says she has been engaging the institution since the incident, however, they have not responded to any of her queries.
One of Paulus’ fellow interns says even the artisans at the time experienced a lack of personal protective gear, which is at times not enough for everyone in the company.

“The only thing available when dealing with steam are gloves,” which are not adequate protection because steam is often used as a means to unblock the drainage holes in winter,” says another intern.

“During our time at the company, they would tell us not to go to places without our artisans, but sometimes the supervisors would tell us to do jobs knowing that it can be a risk to us,” he says.

Another intern shares the same sentiments on the protective gear, saying he only received a pair of socks and a hard hat.
“Everyone was aware that we did not have protective gear.”

MEATCO RESPONDS

Corporate communications officer Undamuje Hambira says they are aware of the unfortunate incident of the intern and the institution has taken full responsibility for the incident.

“Paulus was fully equipped with protective personal gear and heavy-duty boots alongside overalls, which were handed to her when she commenced work on site,” Hambira says.

Furthermore, all the contractors and employees are issued with protective clothing equipment as per the institution’s policy, says Hambira.

“She was not assigned to execute the task that is outside her plumbing scope of trade, which could have potentially led to the injury that [she] incurred,” says Hambira.

Additionally, Meatco, in its sense of duty, has taken the initiative to cover all Paulus’ medical expenses, which have amounted to N$500 000, alongside psychological counselling should she still be traumatised by the incident.

A life-long monthly allowance from the SSC has been made available to her on a contractual basis as an intern,” says Hambira.

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