Row over Sh420,000 compensation for man who died in molten steel

Caleb Otieno, who allegedly fell into a metal boiler at Thika-based Blue Nile Rolling Mills Limited on Friday afternoon.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The family of Caleb Otieno, an employee of Thika-based Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd, who was killed after he fell into a vat of molten steel last month, is entangled in a row with his employer over compensation, and has said it will move to court. 

Otieno’s father, Mr Martin Oraro, 74, told the Daily Nation in an interview yesterday that the compensation talks seem to have collapsed. He termed the amount offered as compensation by the company a ridicule to the family, given the horrific way in which his son met his death.

“After I was informed my son had died, I travelled all the way from Kisumu to Thika. I met the management of the company where my son was working. I was accompanied by my family members and in the meeting was the human resources manager of the company, the managing director, and the Thika DCIO Joseph Thuvi.

Compensation

“The company offered me Sh100,000, and when I asked them about the compensation, the HR manager told me that they would compensate me with a third of Sh21,000 that my son was earning per month for the five years he worked as a permanent employee. That is the last thing I heard from the company,'' Mr Oraro said.

''They told me this would translate to Sh7,000 per month. When my other son, John Agwambo, did the calculations, we realised the compensation would be Sh420,000 for all the five years he worked there as a permanent employee, yet it is safety negligence at the company that made my son die. We felt ridiculed and denied justice,'' Mr Oraro added.

The family will be burying three small sacks of remains that were retrieved from the boiler. Otieno was 34.

“We managed to retrieve some few joint bones and a few teeth that we will bury this Saturday. We have preserved them at General Kago Funeral Home in Thika. We feel frustrated and we will be moving to court after the burial,” Mr Agwambo told the Nation.Africa on Tuesday.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd is a sister company of Blue Nile Wire Products Ltd, the manufacturer of barbed wire. The two companies are owned and managed by Blue Nile Group.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills, manufactures the Kifaru brand of steel products and recently announced that it had received Sh862 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank, to fund its expansion in Thika, Kiambu, where its manufacturing plant is based.

Otieno’s family had previously told Nation.Africa that his death was suspicious. The family claimed he was either thrown into the metal boiler or the company has poor safety standards that propelled Otieno to his death.

When the Nation.Africa tried to contact Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd for a comment, an official at the company, identified as Mr Vasu Patel, declined to comment on the incident and referred us to the Human Resource department.

Efforts to contact the firm’s HR department were unsuccessful, with calls and text messages unanswered by the time of filing this story.

The Thika DCIO, Mr Thuvi, did not also respond to Nation calls and text messages about the status of investigations and claims by the family of alleged interference from police.

Earlier, however, Mr Thuvi had ruled out foul play in Otieno’s death, termed it an accident.

Under investigations 

“The matter is under investigations and preliminary investigations have shown that it was an accident and that the deceased was not thrown into a metal boiler as is being alleged,” Mr Thuvi had told the Nation.

By Tuesday morning, the family had raised Sh84,000 for the burial through a WhatsApp group, in addition to the Sh100,000 the father received from Blue Nile.

They appealed to well-wishers for financial help, as well as justice for their son.

 Otieno left Kisumu East for Thika town nearly 10 years ago after finishing his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams. He landed his first job as a casual worker at consumer goods manufacturer Bidco Africa, where he worked for three years, before he got the job at Blue Nile Rolling Mills, where he worked for seven years until his death.

Blue Nile launched operations in 2006 by acquiring a steel wire product manufacturing plant in Kikuyu, Kiambu County.

It currently produces steel and wire at a factory in Thika, Kiambu County. The plant has a capacity to produce 100,000 tonnes of steel products and 15,700 tonnes of wire products.

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