Namibia: Coca-Cola Workers Treated for Ammonia Exposure

FOUR employees at Coca-Cola Namibia plant in Windhoek were exposed to ammonia, in another chemical leak incident to hit the food and beverages industry.

The incident reportedly occurred on 18 January when the plant was not in operation. The affected employees are from the company's logistics and security teams. The company's public affairs and communication manager, Enid Johr, confirmed the incident.

"Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Namibia can confirm the safety of its plant after it experienced a brief release of ammonia from a safety pressure release valve. As the procedure requires, the emergency team was immediately informed, who in turn informed the City of Windhoek," she said. Johr explained that the City of Windhoek's safety team attended to the scene.

"They assessed the plant and surrounding area and declared the plant safe within 25 minutes," said Johr. She added that four employees were taken to hospital for observation, treated and discharged after four hours.

"The City of Windhoek's emergency services took them to Katutura Intermediate Hospital. We then requested them to be transferred to a private hospital, but the doctor at Katutura hospital knew what to do and was very professional," Johr explained.

She added that the company had, however, sought a second opinion with Dr Nadine Agnew, an occupational health specialist, who cleared all employees.

Johr further said "an investigation into the incident was undertaken and precautionary plans are being implemented. The safety of our employees is our number one priority."

To prevent future occurrences of such events, Johr said regular training will be provided on emergency procedures for both manufacturing and office staff.

Ronnie Varkevisser, chief executive officer of the Namibia Manufacturers Association, has urged companies in the industry to take great care of their staff members.

"Everyone must take the utmost care to ensure that employees are not exposed to any danger. The labour ministry must intensify its safety measures for the industry, to ensure that everybody protects their staff. That goes without saying that safety must not be compromised," said Varkevisser.

The Coca-Cola incident follows a similar occurrence reported last week at the Seaflower Pelagic Processing factory at Walvis Bay, where seven employees were hospitalised after a suspected gas leak from a forklift.

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