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Keith Reid's Talawah climb - Employee promoted to manager after losing limb in accident

Published:Thursday | September 18, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Keith Donovan Reid was unsure if he would be able to continue working after losing his arm in an accident, but his employers were supportive of him and did not entertain any thoughts of jeopardising his job. Brian McCalla/Freelance Photographer

Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter

Keith Donovan Reid is not the average employee. He has been disabled for the past 20 years after losing his right arm in a workplace accident.

But he did not allow his missing limb to compromise his productivity and was recently rewarded with a promotion to manager at his place of work.

Reid is now manager for distribution and water quality at Talawah Investments Limited, Kingston's largest private wholesale water distribution centre.

Naturally right-handed, he learned to use his remaining arm to carry out his work functions, aided by the human will to succeed, and has been enjoying his new role in management since he was promoted in July.

His managerial functions require him to have a keen eye for conducting safety tests on water to ensure it is fit for human consumption.

"I am responsible for Talawah where we supply water to the public. My routine in the morning is to go about and check water levels and check all the data over there and log them in a book and see to it that the water reaches up to the level to suit the customers," he explained.

Hand crushed

He lost his arm when the protective glove he was wearing was sucked inside a machine he was operating.

He recalled screaming in agony as his hand was immediately crushed.

His co-worker had to make a split-second decision to sever his hand to free him from the machinery.

"The accident happened on the 4th of August, 1994. I was doing something and it so happened that my hand got caught up in it and a fellow employee had to help me out," he said.

Reid said his co-worker placed his shattered hand in a bag and took it with them to the hospital, but doctors said it was too damaged to be reattached.

Reid was unsure if he would be able to continue working after the accident, but his employers were supportive of him and did not entertain any thoughts of jeopardising his job.

He was a pump operator at the time, but had to be transferred to new duties after his three-month hiatus from work to recover at home.

"We drilled wells and we installed pumps, so basically we have a supervisor and you were being helped," he said. " After three months I wasn't able to do that, but I was able to do things my one hand could do, meaning that I wouldn't go and lift a pipe again by myself, I would need help," he added.

Dependable, reliable, trustworthy

Richard Simpson, managing director of Talawah Investments, lauded Reid's professionalism and attributed much of the company's success to his output.

"He has several strong qualities. He is dependable, reliable, trustworthy and pays attention to detail," he said. "Things we now enjoy are part of Keith's insight and we always see how we can implement ideas he comes with. I would say he has not allowed his disability to be a definition of who he is."

Talawah's actions to Reid mirror the requirement of the Disabilities Act, which was recently passed in Parliament.

Section 6 of the act requires clauses to protect employees like Reid in places of employment, while Section 31 states: "Where an employee has become disabled... and that employee is no longer capable of executing the tasks required by his contract of employment, in so far as there is no disproportionate or undue burden, the employer shall redeploy the employee to a position that (a) is commensurate with the current skills and abilities of the employee; and (b) does not result in loss in remuneration and benefits to the employee.

sheldon.williams@gleanerjm.com