Health and Safety in Ukraine – More mining deathsJuly 30, 2011
In yet another example of poor health and safety in Ukraine, it seems scores of men have died in two separate incidents in Ukrainian mines.
Needless to say, all attention will be focused on the issues surrounding mines and mining in Ukraine, and one wonders how the Chinese, who are quite likely to buy several Ukrainian mines, are viewing the latest incidents (of which there are many each year).
Now Chinese health and safety may not be perfect, it suffers its own mining tragedies, but there are quite likely to be inherent problems in owning mines on foreign soil when it comes to incidents of this nature. Undoubtedly their acquisitions will reduce incidents, not necessarily due to any concern for the people working in the mines, but upgraded and modern equipment, by its nature when used by competent and trained people, will reduce the risk to people. I believe that in the incidents mentioned in the link, at least one mine is privately owned by MetInvest, part of the Rinnat Akhmetov empire.
There is also the cost issue of buying, fitting and using expensive equipment to subsequently damage or destroy it, irrelevant of human cost by way of injury or death, do to slipshod and poor health and safety.
It is of course quite easy to condemn the health and safety conditions in Ukraine on a universal scale across all areas of life when putting them in comparison to other nations. Writing as an IOSH and SMSTS qualified person, I can say with some confidence that from what I have personally witnessed in the years I have been here, whilst deaths and serious injury are almost always reported, less serious and minor accidents inherently are not. There are then what are known as “near misses” that would be reported in the UK for example, where nobody was injured at all through luck rather than judgment, in order for those in charge of H&S at that location to correct the situation after investigation of the circumstances.
To be fair, certainly to the major construction companies in Ukraine, I have witnessed a major improvement over the years, but these are privately owned entities where the authorities have little problem in making examples of owners and management should something go wrong. The same cannot be said of the smaller companies I would add.
A completely different set of circumstances to those where many mines are still owned by the State where more often than not, nobody is held accountable for incidents at such premises.
I have never seen or heard of a proactive H&S inspection in Ukraine. They are always reactive as they will be with regards to these mining incidents. The problem of course, is H&S inspectors are government employees and thus are easily influenced to leave State owned organisations alone.
The next problem is they are obviously underpaid being State employees and therefore, such is the culture of Ukraine, happy to accept payments to turn a blind eye even with privately owned organisations or sufficiently fudge an investigation to avoid liability for those with money.
The acceptance of money to avoid inspections or fudge investigations is only part of the problem. The whole concept of health and safety is to avoid deaths, injuries of any severity and “near misses”. The lessons lost and not communicated to relevant industry participants and fellow inspectors by following this path can be, and probably has been, catastrophic. The learning curve that should grow with every investigation and reported incident simply does not occur.
Nobody is in denial that there has been little or no investment or upgrades to the Ukrainian commodities industries since the collapse of the USSR. Given that is the case, few can expect a zero incident rate. No country on the planet has a zero incident rate with regards to health and safety.
The American OSHA system of health and safety is, in comparison to the UK IOSH system, nowhere near as flexible to individual circumstance and would probably close or suspend work at far more Ukrainian industrial and commercial units than than that of IOSH, which is more geared to solve the problem on a bespoke and more timely basis. That said, either system if rigorously enforced in Ukraine would have a dramatic effect upon accident statistics with, undeniably, an affect on profit margins, at least initially.
Nevertheless, what cost to the image of Ukraine and knock on effects to DFI, compared to a national health and safety clamp down similar to those that Ukraine has now voluntarily entered into with Ensreg for nuclear facilities in the wake of the Japanese incident?
Will it take a disaster of such scale to address this issue in respect of State owned producers?