Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties-Upon entry at the Sime Darby Plantation, Liberia located in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, the priority of safety is very visible.
Messages and signs of safe and secured environment are seen everywhere. There are displays of fire extinguishers instructions on safety procedures at major entry points to serve as guides to visitors on the dos and don’ts of safety related issues.
There is always a safety briefing for first time visitors with a safety video locating strategic locations of entry and exits points and what to do in case of any emergency.
Safety gadgets such as coats, hats, shoes, gloves are available for those visiting the company’s Palm Oil Processing Mill.
For the employees, it is daily operating procedures to observe all safety rules and regulations with no exceptions on categories of employees.
Contractors and other short-term workers alike are compelled to adhere to the company’s safety processes and procedures.
Contractors and workers at places such as spraying, applying of fertilizers and other activities that require the use of chemicals, the safety measures are more stringent with violators facing disciplinary actions ranging from suspension to dismissal.
“Here at Sime Darby, safety is a collective effort. Everybody must wear safety gears before spraying or coming in contact with chemicals”, says Kerfa Sheriff, Safety Supervisor, Sime Darby Plantation.
Wearing his full Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) which he says is his normal working dress code, Sheriff told reporters that the company number one priority is the safety of its employees, contractors and visitors.
“We want people to come here and go back home safely to their families, so we adhere to strict safety rules and procedures without exception”, he says.
According to him, inspection on compliance with safety procedures is not only done by the Safety Department of the Company but the entire workforce.
“Because safety is our number one priority, we don’t leave that responsibility of inspection with only the Safety Department, all other managers and senior employees of Sime Darby Plantation, Liberia are to observe any violation of our safety rules and report it timely for action”, he continues.
During a surprise tour of the Matambo Estate, one of the estates, sprayers were on their daily routine, spraying the plantation for weaver-grass that disturbs the normal growth of palm.
Joseph Passewe, a 33 year- old sprayer who says he has been working as contractor-sprayer for two years states that, safety is a major concern because the chemicals are harmful and they-the sprayers know that very well.
“We have PPEs, everyone here has three sets each, so there is no need for somebody to come and tell us to wear it, because we know the chemicals will be harmful if we do not wear the safety materials and come in contact with it”, says Passewe.
He says there is no reason to spray without dressing properly when the Personal protective Equipment are provided by the management of SDPL.
“I see no reason to keep the PPEs home and expose myself to chemicals, no sense in that, so nobody is able to do that”, Passewe adds.
Eddie K. Bryant, who says he has been spraying for the last five years also believes it is not possible to have sprayers not wearing safety gears.
“It is not possible for somebody to come on this field without his PPEs because we first assemble at the muster ground, where the Superiors will ensure everyone has their PPEs before we can come on the field to spray”, he explains.
He says anyone who comes to work without PPEs is immediately sent home by the Supervisor and will not work for the day.
“How will you get on the field in the first place when you do not show up on the muster ground with your PPEs for the Supervisors to inspect and give you the go-ahead to come on the field to work for the day, that can never happen here”, Bryant maintains.
Bryant admitted that he was sent home on one occasion just for leaving home his gloves.
“That day, I could not work and forfeited my daily wage because my Supervisor marked me absence for not bringing my gloves, even though I had my jumpsuit, facemask, boots and other PPEs”, he narrates.
For Adam Sherman, Senior Field Supervisor, he has never seen or heard of any contractor or Sime Darby employee carrying out spraying without wearing PPEs.
“First of all we conduct general muster where the men show up and we call your name, see your dress before you get on the truck to go out to spray” says Sherman.
Sherman who is a head contractor says he has 33 men under his control and has been providing contractual services for Sime Darby since the company took over from the Guthrie Rubber Plantation Company back in 2009.
“I worked with Guthrie and since Sime Darby came, I have been here serving as contractor where I have 33 men under my control. I send people home for not coming to work with their full PPEs, I don’t compromise that”, Sherman vows.
He says even the contractors know the chemicals are harmful to their health and cannot go out to spray without safety gears.
At the Grand Cape Mount (GCM) Estate, the spraying team are also very busy spraying, with all sprayers in their full PPEs.
Here, Sheriff says although the visit on the field took him by surprise but the attire of all Sprayers on the field is an indication that safety is a usual practice at the plantation.
“You can see for yourself, we took the men on the field by surprise but they are all wearing their PPEs, so this is something they do every day”, he adds.
Since SDPL started operations in Liberia, it continues to maintain a good safety record. A team from the Environmental protection Agency during a visit at the Company Mill in June this year, the EPA praised the company for the level of health environmental practices in place at the Mill.
Sime Darby Plantation Liberia signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Government of Liberia to develop 220,000 hectares of land in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Bong into oil palm and rubber plantations. To date, approximately 10, 518 hectares in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties have been planted with oil palm.
Editor’s note: In the previous article, there were comments in some parts of it. Those comments were not associated with anyone from Sime Darby. Those were comments from a government official that our reporter copied and pasted in a different article while editing various stories. We sincerely regret this.