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Demolition resumes, but safety issues linger

All demolition work was basically halted in Jacmel last week after one man was killed and another injured while working for one of the many non-government organizations that employ people in town to tear down damaged buildings. At a meeting the morning after the death, several groups met with city and federal officials to discuss how to make demolition work safer. The city agreed to increase the presence of its engineers at various sites and non-government organizations were instructed that they needed to buy workers' insurance before starting demo work again.

Questions over the insurance - from whom to buy it, how much it should cost and who should pay for it - has stalled many groups that had been pushing ahead with demolition and lot-clearing to employ local people. Some organizations have apparently figured it out though, including the United Nations Development Program, which is partnering with the City of Jacmel to put hundreds of people to work in the streets.

Wearing green t-shirts, they've been doing everything from garbage collection to street sweeping and heavy duty rubble clearing over the past few days. Deborah was shooting some pictures of them working on the collapsed second storey of a residential building on Rue La Comedie the other day when workers began to complain to us that they are being mistreated. Holding out hole-filled gloves, some of the men said they were lucky to be issued gloves at all. Many split pairs with their friends, each wearing one to pad whichever hand bore the brunt of their shoveling work. There aren't enough hard hats to go around, they said, nor are there work boots. Many of the workers had on sneakers or Crocs while they were clearing the lot.

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And there was another accident. A worker without a hard hat had toppled off the second storey when his body went into a seizure. He fell on his face into a hole and sat across the street, bloodied and disoriented, while his friends yelled for help and a taxi to take him to hospital.

Later that day, I met with a couple of city officials who assured me that they have made demolition work much safer and they will continue to strive for better standards. But clearly there are still some serious safety issues they need to resolve.

(Photo by Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

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About the Author
Global food reporter

Jessica Leeder is the Globe’s Atlantic Reporter, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In previous roles, Jessica has reported for the Globe from Afghanistan and post-quake Haiti, assignments for which she won an Emmy and a National Newspaper Award, respectively. She has also written about the politics of global food, entrepreneurialism and small business, and automotive news. More

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