© Dmytro MatviychukThe town of Vugledar is located only 28 km from the contact line with the temporarily occupied territory of the Donetsk region, East Ukraine. Some trace of the war still remains. Every time you travel to the city, you have to pass a checkpoint for control and inspection.
Vugledar is home to about 10,000 people who are mostly miners and their families. Being a miner in Vugledar is prestigious. Many young people want to work in mines, like their fathers and grandfathers did. Despite constant delays of salary payments and the uncertain future of the coal industry, many people are strongly attached to the tradition of working in mines.
In the framework of the ILO-Canada project “Improving Occupational Safety and Health in the Mining Industry of Ukraine” the ILO has been delivering training on improved safety in mines. After successful implementation in pilot mines in Kryvyi Rih (Southeast of Ukraine) and Lviv (West Ukraine), the project extended mine safety training to two more coal mines – the Pivdennodonbasske No. 1 mine and Surhaya M. mine – located in Vugledar in the Donetsk region.
The purpose of the training is to train mine safety experts to implement the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management system based on a practical risk assessment. The training was delivered by the ILO project team and three Ukrainian trainers trained previously by the project. Altogether, 40 experts on mine safety benefitted from the ILO training.
The participants discussed how to assess the risks properly, and what effective and practical measures are needed to eliminate or minimize the risks. Participants paid attention to serious dangers, such as non-functioning fire protection equipment in a belt entry, but also identified potentially dangerous issues such as damaged stairs at the exit of the carriage.
Viacheslav Petrushenko, Deputy CEO of the Tsentralna mine in the Donetsk region, was keen to introduce a preventive system to reduce the accidents in his mine, which employs around five thousand workers. He is convinced that in order to ensure mine safety, constant training is very important for all workers, especially now when a lot of skilled personnel work abroad and the level of qualification of new employees decreased considerably.
Mykola Aseev, Deputy CEO on Labour Protection of SE Lysychanskvuhillia in the Luhansk region agrees with the need for training, but also alerts that more funding is required for the safety of underground workers. He says, “The enterprise I work for has large wage arrears. There is an insufficient state funding for safety, in particular personal protective equipment of underground workers.”
Despite these constraints, many participants revealed a positive view of the changes. Serhii Rud, Head of the Repair and Restoration Section at the Pivdennodonbaska No.1 mine in Vugledar, believes that the main problem in introducing such a system at their enterprise is not the lack of funding, but the education of workers. He says, “For ordinary workers you need to give clear guidance on what to do, how to do it, and why you need to take care of safety. You need to explain why it is better to prevent accidents than to wait until they happen.”
A positive outcome of the training is already seen as the two coal mines in Vugledar are starting to implement the new OSH management system. Ihor Yaschenko, Deputy Head of the Department of Labour Protection, Industrial Safety and Civil Protection of the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection proposed to come back in half a year to monitor their progress.