A worker with a Chinese firm, Hongxing Steel Company Limited, Chris Abiodun, will never be the same again after he was scalded by molten metal while working in the company in the Amuwo Odofin area.
Abiodun sustained burns on his face, hands, legs, body, among other parts, when the liquified steel flowed down his body.
Our correspondent learnt that he was rushed to the Military Hospital, Yaba, where he was treated before he was transferred to a private hospital.
We were told that the company, which had borne the cost of treatment, became uncomfortable with the increasing medical bills.
He was said to have been discharged and taken home.
After some disagreements, the company was alleged to have offered the victim N100,000 as compensation.
Abiodun, an indigene of Ondo State, wondered what he would do with the money, which he claimed included the cost for a corrective surgery.
Narrating the incident, the 30-year-old said he had resumed work on October 1, 2017, oblivious of the impending danger.
He said, “I joined the company in 2014. I am in the cook department, where we melt iron. On October 1, 2017, I was with six other workers when there was an explosion in the furnace. I was in the front. The molten metal splashed on my body. Although I put on a helmet, hand gloves and safety boots, the molten metal burnt everything off and scalded me. A co-worker was injured in the leg.
“I was taken to the Military Hospital, Yaba, where I spent one month. On October 31, the consultant doctor said I should be discharged. But then, I still had injuries all over my body. I told the company I had nowhere to stay and that they should take me to another hospital where I can get adequate treatment.
“I was moved to a private hospital. After spending 14 days, the safety officer, Niyi, said I would be discharged because the company was spending too much money on injured workers. I went to beg the doctor and he told me the hospital could not continue the treatment without money. He asked if I could afford to pay N5,000 per night and I said no.”
Abiodun said he returned home, adding that sometime in December, the firm asked him to go to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi.
The victim said he was later informed that he needed a surgery to enable him to open his mouth freely and eat well.
The NOHI reportedly scheduled the surgery for June 2018.
“The company was paying me N18,000 salary at this time, which was not enough for me. I met the safety officer and told him I wanted a payoff to be able to take care of myself.
“I was directed to the public relations officer who made some calculations and offered me N435,000. He said it included the cost of the surgery. I begged for an increment considering that I was deformed already, but he refused and said it was the company’s rule.
“I don’t have any medication. It is difficult for me to sleep at night. I can’t eat well and I feel itches all over my body. My mouth and jaws are also affected. I am ashamed of what I have become. I am disfigured; my legs, hands and faces are burnt. I stay indoors every day now,” he added.
A community leader, Christian Ahamba, said he visited the company with Abiodun last Wednesday after booking an appointment with the management of the firm.
Ahamba noted that he was not attended to until he threatened to create a scene.
He said, “Their Chinese boss, Handerson, called us in. I told him the accident was the company’s fault because the boy was not given enough protective equipment and he wore ordinary clothes. But the Chinese man said he (Abiodun) was okay and he could even resume work. He said it was only his flesh that was burnt.
“We became angry when he said they would give him N100,000 as compensation. The boy told him he had earlier been offered N435,000. The white man became livid and started quarrelling with the black managers. He asked the boy for evidence of the agreement. He said the company would give him N100,000.”
While recalling a case in which one Emeka allegedly sustained severe injuries in 2016 after being crushed by a truck on the firm’s premises, Ahamba said Hongxing’s safety measures were poor.
He called on the government and regulatory agencies to investigate the company’s operations.
PUNCH Metro had reported in 2015 how some workers at the company died and others sustained injuries.
Our correspondent had reported how some workers in the cook department got scalded and others were blinded.
However, an officer in the firm’s Public Relations Department, Francis Felix, said Hongxing usually provided workers with personal protective equipment.
He said, “We provide helmets, safety shoes, gloves, overall and face shades. These things make up the personal protective equipment. Most of the workers wear the overall, but there are times they complain the place is too hot and they put it aside. The safety officers usually caution them.
“It is true Abiodun had an accident, but the company tried its best by taking him to the Military Hospital, Yaba. I visited him and his family members and I assured them that the company would take care of his bills. After the treatment, the doctor discharged him.
“When he reported to me that he was discharged against doctor’s advice, I investigated and learnt he was asked to be coming from home for check-ups. When he said he didn’t have a place to stay, he was taken to a private hospital and the company was paying N5,000 per night. The company fed and took care of him.
“On the compensation issue, we have a standard. We multiply the minimum wage (N18,000) by the level of injuries and we look at the number of years spent in the company. I discussed with him last year and I never mentioned N100,000. I don’t know how much the company wants to pay him. It is left for the human resources department. We will call him for a discussion.”