Let Tevita’s death not be in vain

The death of 21-year-old Tevita Amituana’i of Vaitele-uta last week should not be in vain. If anything, it is a timely reminder about the importance of occupational health and safety for all work places throughout Samoa, for both employers and employees.

Far too often, these things are overlooked and completely ignored. It happens in Samoa everyday and the consequences are devastating. From factory workers to road workers to public servants, the nonchalant attitude towards safety and well being at the work place is quite common.

Which is why the death of Tevita who was an employee of the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) should be a wake up call for everyone not to take safety for granted. 

What we need to remember is that accidents do not discriminate when they happen and death only needs a few split seconds. Which is precisely what appeared to have happened to young Tavita.

Last Wednesday, he would’ve gone to work thinking that it was just another day. He would’ve made plans for after work and like most people, plans for the week, the rest of the year and his future.

But that quickly changed for the worst.

“At around 3:00pm on Wednesday 27th March 2019, while working on its low voltage distribution network at Alafua, Tevita accidentally slipped and was electrocuted,” the E.P.C. explained.

 “From investigations, the logistics of the work site where he was working and with reference to statements obtained from witnesses, Tevita slipped from the ladder and accidentally touched the live wire while attempting to conclude the works on the Low Voltage Power Pole he was working on. 

 “The weather condition of light showers and wind towards the end of their work has not been ruled out as a contributing factor.”

At this point of time, there is nothing to suggest negligence on anyone’s part – including E.P.C. In fact, the Corporation has already gone out of its way to highlight this.

“Tevita had his full safety gear on when the accident happened, however, it is quite tragic that this has happened to one of our own,” a statement from the Corporation said. 

“Safety procedures and measures for their protection at all times is of paramount importance to E.P.C., given the nature of these works. As tragic as the situation, E.P.C. yet again re-emphasises the priority for the safety of its technical staff at all times while providing the services to the country, continues.” 

We couldn’t agree more. Safety should always be paramount. 

In this country, Tevita is not the only E.P.C. worker to have died on the job. And it’s not just E.P.C. We have seen many other incidents at other work places where the lack of attention to safety and occupational health has cost precious lives. We recently also had a case where a man working for a telecommunication company fell from a pole and died.

These incidents take a toll on everyone. While some people will purely view the victims as statistics in terms of deaths at places of work, these are not just statistics. They are people, precious lives. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and they are beloved members of this community. 

 The late Tevita was no exception. When the Samoa Observer visited the family last week, his grandmother, Fetu Amituanai, wept on a sofa as she reminisced about her grandson.

 “I miss him dearly. This is very hard for us because we did not expect to see him on his death bed…if he was sick at the hospital it would have been okay but to hear about his passing without a goodbye is heartbreaking,” she said.

“I told him not to become an electrician. I warned him because I knew how hard that line of work is and the nature of the job. I warned him that it’s hard and can lead to accidents but now he is gone without a goodbye.”

Tevita’s mother, Kerisimasi Amituanai, was equally devastated.

“He is hard to forget because of his personality, very quiet and doesn’t answer back when I tell I’m off,” she said.

The family members make so many people, including church members, friends and work colleagues who would all have a story to tell about Tevita.

One life lost is one too many. Could Tevita’s life have been spared? Is there something he or E.P.C. could have done differently that could have prevented his death when he slipped? Who knows? But this is why we should always try and find the lessons in these tragedies so we can avoid them. 

The death of Tevita should be fully investigated with the findings and lessons used to ensure E.P.C. line workers of today and the future are protected and to spare people like Fetu and Kerisimasi the heartache they are going through right now as they prepare to say goodbye to a loved one. In other words, let Tevita’s death not be in vain.

Our deepest condolences for the passing of Tevita. 

Have a safe Friday Samoa, take care and God bless!

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