Disasters that could have been prevented
Ten years ago, the news of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant shook the world. It was caused by a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 9 and a tsunami. Scientists are still debating whether such large-scale consequences could have been avoided.
According to Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Sergienko, “Japanese specialists did not have the skills to work in difficult conditions. The accident could have been prevented quite composedly - it was enough to bleed gas from the emergency units to prevent an explosion.” The academician specified that in this case only a small amount of radioactive substances would have entered the atmosphere, but it would have been scanty, carried off into the ocean, dissolved, and there would have been no trace.
There is an opinion that all industrial accidents and incidents are attributed either to natural phenomena or human error. Or both at the same time.
“Despite all the developments in the field of safety in production processes of various kinds and the emergence of new methods of monitoring dangerous and harmful production factors, most of the natural phenomena affecting them remain unpredictable. For example, rock mass caving in open pits is an uncontrollable hazard that exists with varying degrees of probability during field development. Even if all construction and operation requirements are met. It may depend on the characteristics of rock fracturing, mass displacement due to seismic activity, geologic and hydrogeologic conditions, and other causes. In this aspect, scientific thought is aimed at learning how to anticipate them and how to respond in time. In addition, it is necessary to develop a clear mechanism of action in case of an emergency,” explains Olga Baranova, a graduate of St. Petersburg Mining University and leading engineer for occupational safety at AO Karelsky Okatysh.
In 2016, 50-70 thousand cubic meters of rock mass collapsed in the Vostochny open-pit, owned by Polyus. Excavator operators and their assistants, truck drivers, technicians, and maintenance personnel were at the sites at a depth of 300 to 560 meters. There were 154 people in all. Most of them would have been trapped under rubble if the dispatchers had not timely noticed the cracks beginning to split, the alarm system did not work promptly, and the people were not removed from the danger zone. This was thanks to the monitoring center, whose specialists monitor the technical condition of the facility on screens. The information comes from video cameras and digital sensors, both stationary and installed on heavy equipment. Today such centers operate at many sites, including Karelsky Okatysh.
By the way, the same system also makes it possible to monitor other hazards and situations: conducting weekly mass explosions to open the deposit and withdrawal of all people and equipment at that moment. Camcorders also record the condition of the roads and the safety of the embankment safety wall on the border of the pit benches, which prevents the machines from going down. Of course, it is not a major fence, but it serves its purpose - it serves as a guide for drivers.
The monitoring center is a shining example of how a preventive measure, which is very expensive and not officially mandatory, aimed at improving occupational safety and health, allows avoiding the deaths of workers.
The human factor should not be underestimated. The concept originally came from aviation, where it is seen as a priority factor in ensuring flight safety. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), at least 80% of all aviation incidents, accidents and disasters are caused by erroneous and incorrect actions of aviation personnel. The same laws work on and under the ground as they do in the air.
When an accident occurred at the Mir underground mine, part of Alrosa, in 2017, 151 people were in the flood zone, eight of whom died. The court found that there were signs of water breakthrough within the boundaries of the hazardous zones as a result of a significant deterioration of the mining and geological situation. The mine’s acting director and acting chief engineer were aware of this but did not stop the operation of the mine or remove people from the workings. They were found guilty of a violation of safety rules during mining works, which resulted in the death of people and damage of 10 billion rubles. Can such behavior be called a human factor? Definitely. Optimization of processes for the benefit of the performer by the performer often leads to a violation of work instructions and technology.
"Of course, ideally, occupational safety and health specialists should have more of an advisory function - helping to develop and comply with regulations to minimize risks in an enterprise. But in reality, we have to be controllers and introduce not only preventive but also supervisory measures. The company has adopted a set of rules aimed at reducing injuries. For example, all the checkpoints are equipped with breathalyzers, and everyone has to pass them. At the railway crossings between the mining and enrichment sites, a hardware-software complex is installed, which uses artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to determine the presence of vehicles in the monitored area. These violations are common and belong to the human factor, but they can lead to the most tragic consequences. That’s why they need to be monitored,” explains Olga Baranova.
|AO Karelsky Okatysh is Russia’s leading iron ore mining and processing company. It is a part of PAO Severstal, is located in the Republic of Karelia, and carries out mining operations at the Kostomuksha and Korpangsky deposits. The main activity of the mine is the extraction of iron ore and production of iron ore pellets (20% of the total Russian market).|
The future in improving industrial safety lies in digital technologies and automation that minimize human presence in hazardous working environments. We are talking about remotely controlled machinery and equipment - unmanned dump trucks, drilling rigs, systems for positioning and monitoring the movement of personnel in mine workings, and laser scanners. Of course, new technologies will not replace humans, but they will bring their activities to a new qualification level.
“We are currently testing exoskeletons that we plan to purchase for the company. This is an innovative device designed to increase the strength of human muscles and relieve stress using an external framework and driving parts. It helps relieve the stress of a person working for a long period in a static position. For example, a mechanic who repairs machinery and is forced to keep his hands in the weight for long periods,” says Karelsky Okatysh’s lead occupational safety engineer.
Occupational safety includes legal, technical, socio-economic, therapeutic, and other measures. It is an extremely comprehensive system of standards and measures. It is not without reason that Karelsky Okatysh employs more than 20 people in the Occupational Health and Safety Department, some of whom work in the head office and others in the shops. Most of them are graduates of Mining University, who have studied industrial safety, labor protection, geomechanics, rock destruction, mine aerodynamics, and mining thermal physics.
In September 2021, new rules developed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection will take effect. The ministry has simplified the procedure for ordinary employees of organizations to undergo occupational safety training and subsequent knowledge testing. In particular, now these processes may take place remotely. Taking into account the fact that remote education always affects its quality, the level of training of occupational safety engineers becomes paramount.