Irresponsibility and negligence – dangers of modern day labor
In the pursuit of profit, many businessmen neglect the protection of labor and ignore the safety of employees, paying for supervising organizations to turn the blind eye to the violations. This often leads to accidents in the workplace.
State labor inspections exist in all of Russian regions. Each field of works has its own security requirements, including means of protecting employees, the use of special equipment, and the reduction of harmful emissions during the production process. However, it is difficult to find a company in this country, which does not violate these rules.
The number of victims has decreased… Or has it?
Each year, the Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Protection publishes robust reports about reduction of workplace injuries. However, the data in various official records somehow lacks precision and has multiple contradictions.
For example, the Ministry of Labor’s official website states that in 2014, some 6 thousand and 316 accidents with serious consequences were reported in Russia. While the Head of the Ministry Maxim Topilin, during a videoconference with regional representatives, reported that in 2015, a total of 7,137 such cases happened.
It turns out that the number of workplace injuries in this country is growing rapidly, by 1000 people a year! However, the minister said that the number of such incidents is "...14% less than in 2014." What is that supposed to mean?
We would have even more questions, if we started to reconcile the data on the number of people, who died in the workplace. The website reported about 1,707 workers, who died in 2015. At the same time, Maxim Topilin mentioned 2,089 people. The difference is 382! Where do all of these numbers come from?
One thing remains unchanged though - the relevant ministry reports always indicate positive dynamics compared to previous years. So, can we believe the official statements about the reduction in workplace injuries in Russia?
We are told that every year fewer people are suffering from accidents at work. However, let us not forget that the industrial production index is decreasing in Russia. Simply put, the production companies are closing.
According to the Federal State Statistics Service, in 2015 this index amounted to only 96.6% from 2014, (and it was not high in 2014 either). Less production means fewer employees, fewer employees means fewer injuries. Does it really have anything in common with the improvement of working conditions?
The most dangerous areas of work are construction, engineering, metalworking, mining of coal and other minerals, as well as processing industry. People fall from tall buildings during repairs due to lack of safety ropes, they lose their hands working on faulty machines, they are electrocuted because they work without special protection, they get in accidents due to chronic fatigue, and so on.
In fact, all work as they wish, no one thinks of compliance with safety regulations. The lack of control and the ability to negotiate with labor inspectors do not hold out well. Employees have to act on their own risk.
"Such a pity. He had his whole life ahead."
Maxim Sukhoruchenko works for a company that provides maintenance and construction services. This includes reinforcement, winterization and glassing of balconies, installation of plastic windows and equipment, and so on.
- Me and my colleagues are often working at high altitudes. And we regularly risk falling down from another decayed balcony. We have no equipment to protect our lives and safety, no safeguarding, - Sukhoruchenko says.
For now, we make do. This is surprising indeed, because nobody even gives safety instructions to the employees. A rival organization recently had an accident: their worker fell from the ninth floor while installing a split system. Died, obviously.
- They said it was human factor. I heard that the owner of the company bribed the police and the medical examiner. They put the blame on the victim, who was allegedly drunk, and thus fell down from the building. Such a pity, they guy had his whole life ahead. And now nobody can prove anything, - Maxim sighs.
He himself was almost killed twice this year. In the spring, a rotten balcony bar broke down under his feet, but Maxim managed to grab the metal grille. The second time, in the summer, he had problems with an electric drill.
- The owner of our company refuses to buy new instruments, he is looking for cheaper equipment. Safety rope are a must-have, according to all construction regulations, - Sukhoruchenko complains.
He heard that state labor inspectors are obliged to check working conditions. Yet he never saw any inspectors. Supposedly, representatives of regulatory bodies either resolve these issues with the company's director, or they simply do not care.
Hope against hope
Evgeny Rustamov works as an electrician in one of the administration companies. In an interview with the CrimeRussia correspondent, he also told about numerous violations of safety regulations he had to commit at work.
- Our equipment is ancient. Nobody cares about workers either. Even the rubber gloves I buy on my money. Sometimes I have to hope for a miralce. Despite the fact that 220 volts are fatal, - the electrician said.
With bitterness, Evgeny Rustamov recalls the events of this winter, when his colleague died. On that ill-fated day, power transmission lines were broken - there was a strong wind and the wires were covered with snow. Several houses were left without juice. According to safety regulations, he had to wait for emergency crews, but the deceased electrician decided to do everything himself. He climbed to the pole and suffered a fatal electric shock.
- I believe that the management is also to blame in this accident. As far as I know, none of the administration companies cares to organize safety briefings with employees. This indifference to human life is overwhelming, I wonder how most electricians manage to survive until retirement, - Rustamov sighs.
He believes that if people were regularly reminded of the precautions and provided with high-quality personal protective equipment, the casualties would have been much fewer.
Inspectors hunger for money
Anatoly is the founder of the construction company. He asked not to mention his last name.
- I do not want any more trouble, but I will say how things work. Labor inspectors come to me for money about once every six months. Last time, a member of the supervising organization asked 5,000 rubles from me. I always pay them, otherwise they will pester us with inspections, Anatoly said.
He claims that previously the average size of a bribe amounted to 3,000 rubles, but lately the loyalty of the officials has increased drastically. Anatoly’s colleagues also complain about the increase in extortions, but they can do nothing anything about it.
- It is unlikely that anyone in our field of work observes all the rules of safety. I must admit, my company is also at fault. But that is how things are: until nothing happened, you can do anything, - Anatoly frankly admits.
However, he immediately assured the CrimeRussia correspondent that while working at high altitude, his employees use safety cables and their lives are in no threat. As for the safety briefings, which should be carried out on a regular basis, the company has neither money nor the time for it.
- The main objective is to get the work going. Superintendents, perhaps, explain the newly hired employees that they need to look out. After all, the construction site is not a place for airheads, - Anatoly says.
Safety briefings at the Russian enterprises have become very rare, regardless of the working field. For example, the Federal Service for Labor and Employment has published on its website the results of the audit at MILKOM Open Joint Stock Company (Udmurtia), a dairy products manufacturer.
As it turned out, the numerous labor law violations committed by the employer include the admission of employees to work without an internship, training and instruction on labor protection. Moreover, the people engaged in the processing industry were not given special protection.
In the Ryazan Region, the situation with industrial injuries is quite typical for Russia in general. According to the State Labor Inspectorate, in the first half of 2016, there were 97 accidents at work, 13 of which - with grave consequences for health and wellbeing. Seven workers were killed:
• three people died after falling from a great height;
• two died in an accident;
• one was electrocuted;
• another employee was jammed to death between the parts of the production equipment.
All these people would have be alive if safety requirements had been respected.
State Inspectorate of Labor in the Ryazan Region also notes that employers often conceal accidents. In the first half of 2016, two of such facts were revealed, one of them - with grave consequences for health, when a person was harmed by the industrial equipment.
All materials on occupational accidents were sent to inspectors in the prosecutor’s office, who are to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, none of these facts resulted in criminal proceedings. The responsibility for the deceased and maimed employees usually carries only a pecuniary nature. Most times, the employers pay a fine or provide financial assistance the victim's family, the money on the funeral or treatment.
In Russia, for non-compliance with labor protection legislation, the perpetrator can be held both administratively and criminally liable.
In accordance with article 5.27 of the Russian Administrative Code, for such violations, officials and businessmen can be fined for 1,000 to 5,000 rubles, and the organization - for 30,000 to 50,000 rubles. In case of repeated bringing to administrative responsibility, the volume of the fine is automatically increased, and the safety engineer or other responsible person can also lose the right to engage in professional activities for a period up to 3 years.
Labor inspectors may also impose such penalties. Both those who organize the work and those who are obliged to ensure the safety of employees, may be found guilty.
Criminal liability for non-compliance with labor law comes, if it led to grave or tragic consequences. According to art. 143 of the Russian Criminal Code, violation, which entailed by negligence the infliction of grave injury to the victim, shall be punishable with a fine in an amount of up to 400 thousand rubles, or community service for up to 1 year, or by deprivation of freedom for the same term. Moreover, a person convicted may be prohibited to engage in certain activities for a year.
If a worker was killed, the perpetrator faces forced labor for up to 4 years, or imprisonment for the same term. In case when two or more people died in the workplace, the maximum penalty that the guilty official is facing shall be 5 years of imprisonment.
Entrepreneurs, heads of organizations, safety engineers and other specialists may be held accountable, if their actions (or inaction) endangered the life and health of workers.
As we see, the situation with the labor protection in many Russian companies, both public and private, is critical. People are working without appropriate tools and protective equipment, hoping only for a miracle. Safety briefings are often neglected, traditionally negotiating with the inspectors. At the state level, the situation is also allowed to take its natural course, with officials are simply mentioning the formal reduction in the amount of injuries.
This problem needs to be addressed. It is not only about increased penalties for various violations in the labor safety. The existing system must be reformed by making it more efficient, and aimed at ensuring actual safety in the workplace.