Our number-one commitment
Providing a safe working environment for our people and minimising the risks related to coal production are key targets within SUEK’s operational agenda.
The system we have in place for managing health and safety across the company is regulated by our internal Occupational Health and Safety Policy and complies with the most up-to-date international standards. It is designed to minimise injuries and accidents at our production sites. Our corporate health and safety standards cover company staff and contractors providing services at our sites and facilities. Our production facilities in Kuzbass, Krasnoyarsk and Khakasia undergo regular audits and recertification for compliance with the OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety management standard.
To minimise industrial risks, every year the company updates and implements a comprehensive range of health and safety measures. In 2017, SUEK allocated $56m to health and safety programmes.
In 2017, the lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) across SUEK’s sites stabilised at 1.0. Total lost time amounted to 6,593 days, which is a 15% decrease year-on-year. Our sites recorded 56 industrial injuries, almost the same number as in 2016, consisting of 46 accidents at production sites and ten workers injured at logistic facilities.
Regrettably, there were three fatal accidents at the company’s production facilities in 2017. Two of these accidents occurred during underground mining operations in Kuzbass and one at our service facility in the Krasnoyarsk region. We deeply regret this loss of life and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. The main causes of these fatalities were organisational failures relating to the violation of health and safety requirements, as well as a lack of discipline and skill in key health and safety areas. To avoid such accidents in the future, we have carefully analysed them and will implement best practice in the field of occupational health and safety. We also fully understand the need to educate those who take unnecessary risks in the workplace, and we are urging each and every one of our employees to be more responsible for their own safety and that of their colleagues. In 2017, we rolled out training sessions for our safety managers and professionals to increase levels of awareness, competence and skill and continued to organise safety-knowledge testing among our production workers.
Our efforts to improve health and safety systems and emergency response procedures are coordinated by the Industrial Safety Committee of SUEK’s Management Board. In 2017, the Committee held two in-person meetings, during which eight agenda items were considered. These included:
- Analysis of the circumstances and causes of industrial injuries with severe or fatal outcomes;
- Status of actions taken and planned to prevent similar accidents in the future;
- Programme of organisational and technical measures to improve the level of industrial and occupational safety at our sites;
- Programme to equip mine machinery with automatic fire-fighting systems;
- Results of the implementation of a pilot project enabling industrial safety to be controlled remotely.
The Nomination and Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors also regularly reviews health and safety issues.
Measures to improve health and safety
The main risks in coal mining are potentially explosive concentrations of methane, and accumulation of deposits of fine, explosive coal dust in working areas. The company therefore pays particular attention to measures for improving air quality, minimising airborne dust and diluting coal dust deposits to safe levels with inert powder.
Monitoring underground air and gas
Our mines are equipped with a multifunctional system that ensures the safety and control of our mining operations, and the safe management of production processes under normal and emergency conditions. Currently, the company’s mines operate a number of subsystems as part of the general multifunctional health and safety system, including:
- Atmospheric safety system designed to:
- Monitor and control permanent main fan systems, local ventilation fans, and gas vacuum units;
- Monitor and control gas-drainage units and networks;
- Monitor air and gas conditions.
- Systems for the monitoring and prediction of gas-dynamic phenomena;
- Systems for detecting early signs spontaneous combustion of coal and open fires;
- Systems for the monitoring and management of fire water supply and drainage systems;
- Systems enabling workforce communication, warning and tracking, including:
- Systems tracking the location of personnel in underground mines;
- Systems locating people caught up in accidents;
- Systems delivering emergency underground communication and alerts via loudspeakers.
We have also developed a range of measures designed to improve the reliability of our multifunctional health and safety system. At the SUEK head office in Moscow, our control centre is designed to monitor our systems in real time, analyse system parameters and coordinate efforts with regional branches and industrial facilities during emergencies. Our centralised health and safety control and analysis centre also operates in Kuzbass, where health and safety controllers receive information about atmospheric conditions and gas levels, as well as the safety of production processes in our mines. By monitoring this information 24/7, we make sure that our production teams are not affected by unsafe or harmful atmospheric conditions.
In 2017, we continued to pilot an automated remote safety monitoring system in our Komsomolets mine in Kuzbass. The system enables information support and control and the management of technological processes in normal and emergency conditions. It also helps us to identify critical changes in operating parameters and predicts pre-emergency situations. In 2017, new subsystems were added to atmospheric safety items previously implemented in the remote-control system:
- System for the monitoring of gas outbursts and rock burst phenomena;
- System for the monitoring of auxiliary ventilation fans;
- System for the monitoring of fire water supply;
- System for the monitoring of drainage and pumping systems;
- System for the monitoring of mine electric supply.
In 2018, we plan to integrate all subsystems introduced in our Komsomolets mine into an automated remote system for monitoring the safety of mining operations.
Improving gas drainage
To reduce the risk of explosive concentrations of methane forming in our mines, we carry out comprehensive gas drainage where methane content exceeds 10 m3/tonne of coal. We remove methane from such mining areas via a system of integrated gas-drainage wells. Since 2010, the total depth of our gas-drainage wells has increased by 52% to 345 km, including 287 km of gas-drainage wells drilled from underground workings and a total of 58 km of vertical wells drilled from the surface to the seams. We are constantly introducing new methods, equipment and technology to maximise the efficiency of the gas-drainage process. In 2017, at the Kirova mine, we tested advanced gas drainage technology based on hydraulic fracturing of the coal seam. These methods significantly reduced the gas content of the longwall panel in the fracced area, helping us to minimise downtime linked to gas emissions during mining.
To ensure we are more energy efficient, we use some of the methane removed from the workings to generate heat and electricity at the mines. This also allows us to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Reducing coal dust
To reduce the risk of coal dust explosions, we have implemented strict rules and requirements in our mines regarding stone-dusting using inert dust. Activities in this area include:
- Improving the quality of stone-dusting through the use of more than 300 mechanical stone-dusting units;
- Delivering a threefold increase in stone-dusting in our Kuzbass mines in the past six years, from 6,100 to 17,680 tonnes per year.
We are also constantly looking to enhance the efficiency of the measures we deploy to reduce atmospheric coal dust emissions, for example by:
- Introducing vacuum collection, transportation and discharge of fine coal dust at our washing plants and processing facilities;
- Equipping Vanino Bulk Terminal with fog-generation units and foam generators, and using stationary and mobile dust suppression systems; in 2017, we upgraded the dust suppression system in the Terminal’s railcar tipper hall;
- Developing shields that will suppress over 80% of the dust generated at Murmansk Commercial Seaport. We also launched a fog-generation dust suppression system (water cannons), which allowed us to reduce dust generation by 49%.
Tighter health and safety controls
SUEK has a zero-tolerance policy for violations of health and safety regulations. Preventing such violations plays a vital role in reducing the risk of accidents and injuries at our sites. To this end, we have developed and introduced specialised software to keep track of health and safety-related incidents at all sites across the company. This software prevents tasks from being issued for a shift assignment until all identified health and safety violations have been dealt with. Currently, we are introducing this software in all our service and auxiliary companies.
Personnel training and development
We work hard to ensure all employees have the knowledge, skills and training they need to carry out their roles safely and responsibly. All equipment purchased by the company comes with a special training video showing how to maintain high levels of health and safety during assembly, operation and maintenance. In 2017, we continued to improve computer terminals to enable complex pre-shift examination of workers. SUEK experts developed additional tests for workers of coal mining and processing facilities, as well as for those employed at auxiliary and service units within the company. Before starting a shift, each miner takes a test to check their health and safety knowledge. In June 2017, under the supervision of SUEK’s Chief Operations Officer, Vladimir Artemiev, Khabarovsk hosted our annual conference on industrial and occupational safety, medicine and the environment. The conference, at which we presented results from 2016 and set targets for the future, was attended by more than 100 delegates – SUEK employees, representatives of regulatory authorities and company partners. It included a modelling workshop, attended by managers of production facilities and heads of health and safety services, which focused on creating a safety system that will enable us to eliminate the causes of injuries and accidents.
SUEK was among key partners of the All-Russia Labour Safety Week held in April 2017. As part of personnel development activities, the forum was attended by a large delegation of regional production sites and company units, consisting of managers and experts employed in health and safety, medical and HR services.
Promoting health and safety
In 2017, we developed 13 videos that inform employees about harmful and hazardous production factors and workplace risks and how to minimise them. The videos focus on the proper use of personal protective equipment in accordance with occupational and industrial safety requirements.
SUEK’s production sites also feature an HSE feedback system called Alarm Sheet, whereby employees can write down any hazards associated with a specific workplace or process. In the reporting year, the feedback system helped eliminate more than 300 shortcomings identified by company employees.
Identifying employees who are prone to excessive risk-taking
We test all candidates applying for job vacancies and engineering positions to determine whether these potential hires are prone to excessive risk-taking. Our tests include factors such as a candidate’s risk appetite, and their ability to learn and follow rules.
Provision of modern work clothes and personal protective equipment
To minimise the negative impact of occupational hazards on our staff, the company has developed standard requirements for work clothes, footwear and other personal protective equipment. All SUEK employees receive up-to-date protective kit including special clothing and footwear, helmets, respirators and goggles. The company has also set up an automated system of accounting for personal protective equipment, enabling us to organise and systematise the processes of planning, purchase, storage, and timely and uninterrupted issue of personal protective equipment. In addition, our units carry out regular inspections to ensure compliance with corporate standards in this area. In 2017, SUEK’s units conducted eight workshops devoted to the practical use of personal protective equipment, major changes to health and safety legislation and preventative measures to reduce occupational injuries and diseases.
Preserving the life and health of our employees, and mitigating the risk of occupational diseases, is a priority area within SUEK’s occupational health activities.
Since 2010, as part of our company-wide Health programme, we have been working to identify occupational diseases in their early stages, carrying out systematic healthcare work and promoting healthy lifestyles. All our employees are offered medical services, education about various medical conditions, consultations, diagnostic services and treatment.
The main task of the medical services at our head office, regional production sites and SUEK units is to ensure the necessary conditions for the preservation, protection and promotion of workers’ health, taking into account production risks and individual risks alike. The main areas of focus include:
- Providing emergency medical care;
- Medical admission to work;
- Preventing occupational diseases;
- Treatment and rehabilitation;
- Occupational health and industrial hygiene;
- Promoting healthy lifestyles;
- Developing practical recommendations based on scientific research;
- Participating in a special assessment of working conditions and developing measures aimed at health preservation.
In the period 2012-2017, time lost through sick leave fell by more than 50% across the company, averaging 6.5 days per employee per year.
Q: In 2017, for the first time in Russia, SUEK introduced a
A: The main issue with the longwall was ensuring atmospheric safety, which we achieved by improving the gas control scheme at the site. Two parallel surface gas-suction plants were installed along the edges of the mining area which contributed to stable gas control with a constant volume of extracted methane-air mixture. This scheme allowed us to safely produce 50,000 tonnes per day, and in May 2017 we set the world production record without a single violation of industrial safety rules for coal mines.
Chief Operations Officer