Today, on April 28, as part of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan organized a round table discussion titled “Safe Workplace: Foundation for Preserving Life and Health.” The event brought together trade union leaders and technical inspectors from various sectors and regions of the country, as well as representatives of employers and authorized government bodies.

Greeting the participants of the event, Deputy Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, Nurlan Uteshev, emphasized the relevance of ensuring safe working conditions for Kazakhstani workers. He reminded everyone that the year 2023 has been declared by the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan as the Year of Safe Labor.

“The dynamic of accidents shows no clear trend of reduction. We continue to witness tragic incidents involving group accidents and fatalities. The Federation of Trade Unions has initiated a series of proposals to the Government and Parliament for amendments and additions to the legislation concerning safety and occupational health issues. It is noteworthy that some of these proposals have been reflected in the Concept of Safe Labor in the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2030,” stated Nurlan Uteshev.

Participants were briefed on the current situation by Marat Imash, the Head of the Department for Occupational Safety and Health, Prevention and Resolution of Labor Conflicts of the Committee on Labor and Social Protection of the Federation of Trade Unions. According to his information, the number of accidents in the country has decreased by 5% from 1297 to 1232 compared to 2021, and the number of injured individuals has decreased by 0.1% from 1467 to 1465. However, there has been an increase in the number of fatalities, rising from 200 to 203, which represents a 1.5% increase.

“Moreover, it should be noted that out of the 1232 registered accidents, 428 occurred in 228 enterprises where trade unions are active. This underscores the low level of injuries in unionized workplaces. Since production councils and technical inspectors for occupational safety are often established and operate primarily through the initiative of trade unions,” highlighted Marat Imash.

He presented a number of proposals from the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FTURK) that were previously communicated to social partners.

Among them are the following proposals from the FTURK: enhancing the status and authority of occupational health and safety inspectors, as well as providing material and moral incentives for their work; excluding the degree of worker’s fault during the investigation of occupational accidents; introducing a provision in the Labor Code that mandates the establishment of Production Councils for all employers, including it as a mandatory provision in social partnership agreements and/or collective agreements, and expanding their powers; organizing joint inspections in the format of “state labor inspector – occupational health and safety inspector”; incorporating proposals for a one-time payment equivalent to 10 annual salaries to the family of a deceased worker in social partnership documents; considering the issue of ensuring safe working conditions at meetings of republican, sectoral, and regional tripartite commissions on social partnership and the regulation of social and labor relations, among others.

Among the main causes of accidents in the workplace, he highlighted unsatisfactory organization of work processes, carelessness of the injured person, violation of safety and labor protection rules, and inadequate technical condition of workplaces.

Marat Imash also recommended that social partners join the implementation of modern safety programs such as “Vision Zero,” “Zero Accidents,” and “ASPANS.”

On behalf of the employer’s side, the First Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Association of Mining and Metallurgical Enterprises, Tulegen Mukhanov, presented his perspective on the issues at hand.

According to him, the equipment wear and tear in mining and metallurgical enterprises reaches 60-70%, and currently, measures are being discussed and implemented in the industry to modernize production capacities..

For example, last year at “ArcelorMittal Temirtau,” joint monitoring with trade unions helped prevent over 180 hazardous situations that could have led to fatal accidents.

Meanwhile, the General Director of the State Institution for Occupational Health and Safety Research of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sholpan Abikenova, informed the participants of the round table about the measures taken by the government in the field of occupational health and safety.

“The Concept of Safe Work in the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2030 has been adopted in the country, the objectives of which include the modernization of the national occupational safety management system, economic incentives for measures to reduce occupational risks, the development of professional competencies and scientific potential in the field of occupational safety, and the improvement of control and monitoring effectiveness. Ensuring safe working conditions is a comprehensive effort involving all parties. However, today, real working conditions and occupational risks are not always taken into account everywhere, workers are not fully protected from harmful factors, and employers are limited by legislative requirements in terms of the conditions for procurement of high-quality personal protective equipment,” said Sholpan Abikenova.

Dinara Aitzhanova, the Chairperson of the Regional Trade Union Center, shared the experience of joint work between social partners in the Pavlodar region.

For example, at Bogatyr Komir LLP, which employs over 6,000 workers, 104 technical inspectors for occupational safety conducted over 4,500 inspections in 2022. They issued 7,700 observations, which were well-founded and addressed by the employer.

The Roadmap for Accident Prevention is being implemented, and the “People’s Control” project has been adopted at 12 enterprises in the region.

On the other hand, Marat Mirgayazov, the Chairman of the Industry Trade Union of Coal Miners “Kazugleprof,” emphasized that workplaces in coal mines are exposed to the highest number of risks.

“The heavy and dangerous work of miners, who are exposed to numerous negative factors, requires increased attention to occupational safety and health. ‘Kazugleprof’ insists on the modernization of production equipment and the conduct of modern scientific research,” urged Marat Mirgayazov.

Head of the Advisory and Diagnostic Department of the Public Health Institute of the North Kazakhstan Autonomous Oblast, Saule Akyngzhanova, spoke about the need for the revival of occupational medicine in her speech.

According to her data, a total of 8,168 people with occupational diseases are registered in Kazakhstan. The highest number of workers exposed to hazardous working conditions is observed in Karaganda region – 42%, Pavlodar region – 43%, Mangistau region – 38%, East Kazakhstan region – 26.9%, and Zhambyl region – 26.4%.

The highest rates of occupational diseases are observed in the enterprises of TOO “Kazakhmys Corporation,” AO “ArcelorMittal Temirtau,” TOO “Vostoktsvetmet,” TOO “Kaztsink,” and JSC “Kazphosphate.”

30.2% of workers have more than two diseases, which is associated with the combined effects of various harmful factors on the workers’ bodies. Some patients are diagnosed with two, three, or more conditions simultaneously.

“In 2021-2022, an increase in occupational diseases is observed throughout the country. It is evident that the registered level of occupational diseases does not reflect the true situation and is not adequate to the working conditions in modern Kazakhstan,” noted Saule Akynzhanova.

She believes that it is necessary to accelerate the restoration of the organization overseeing occupational medicine and occupational pathology service, the National Center for Hygiene and Occupational Diseases, as well as revive occupational medicine in the regions of the country.

In concluding the round table discussion, Deputy Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FTURK), Nurlan Uteshev, called on all parties of the social partnership to work together in continuously improving the working conditions of employees.

The outcome of the round table will be recommendations from its participants on taking prompt measures to ensure safety and occupational health.

As a reminder, according to the information from the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in 2022, there were 1,232 industrial accidents on 1,214 enterprises across the country, resulting in injuries to 1,465 people. Among them, 203 cases were fatal, 897 cases were severe, and 365 cases were minor.