Preliminary findings by Saknakhshiri, operator of Mindeli coal mine in the western Georgian town of Tkibuli, have cited a violation of technical safety standards during routine blasting works as a reason for the explosion late on January 30, which killed one and injured eight others.
In a statement on February 8, Saknakhshiri stressed that the mining dispatcher greenlighted the blasting works even though methane levels on-site exceeded the legally allowed threshold of 1%.
The company also laid responsibility on an unidentified number of blasting foremen who allegedly violated standard safety rules by arbitrarily swapping responsibilities, ending up absent “from the specific location where they were supposed to be.”
Specifically, it claimed that after a mine operator had measured the level of methane on-site, a blasting foreman did not further ascertain the gas concentration or carry out measures to control the situation because the person had not brought the necessary equipment.
Thus, the company said a blasting operator carried out the explosion works without having inspected the explosion site beforehand.
It stated that inspection also found that one of the foremen did go on the site to carry out blasting works at all, without notifying the management.
According to the preliminary findings, a ventilation fan, that prevents gas accumulation and provides a continuous air supply, was switched off at the time of the accident. The company did not elaborate say why the ventilation was turned off or who switched it off and when.
The statement said the company’s special commission gathered information on workers’ movements from the positioning system indicators of the mine personnel.
Saknakshiri said the final findings are due at the beginning of March, but noted that some of the initial conclusions could be revised if new details emerge.
Over the incident, the Labor Inspection Office is carrying out its own probe into the accident. The state body has also ordered Saknakhshiri to suspend blasting in the mine and close down the section of the mine where the incident took place before its own conclusions.
Georgian Trade Unions Confederation responds
The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) slammed the mining company for “trying to shift the responsibility to the employees.”
The labor union argued that reasons the causes of the incident cited by Saknakhshiri demonstrates “numerous faults” in the work discipline of the company.
“Organizing the work discipline is the responsibility of the company and it should control every procedure that was listed in the statement,” the GTUC noted.
It added that if there are persons among the management who prioritize increasing output over labor safety, it would “naturally encourage” the violations of the safety procedures as mentioned in the company’s statement.
This article was updated at 16:45, on February 10 with a statement delivered to Civil.ge by the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation.
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