ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih strives to introduce innovations in the field of labor protection

Where labor safety begins at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, the largest steel mill in Ukraine, how the attitude to the introduction of modern technologies in the field of labor safety has changed and how the company reduces the burden on the environment, Zhanbek Yesmakhanov, Director of Labor Protection, Industrial Safety and Ecology Department of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, told GMK Center.

Where does labor safety at AMKR begin? What rules should an employee observe?

Labor safety at the enterprise is based on the requirements of the legislation of Ukraine, our corporate standards and advanced technologies. The mechanism is launched at the stage of hiring employees, selection of candidates. Medical examination, briefings, training are mandatory to develop the necessary competencies in a newly hired employee.

ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih has been running the «Top Four Killers» program for a number of years. This list was formed based on the analysis of global injury statistics for steel industry. We used data from international organizations provided by WorldSteel. We also analyzed the statistics of ArcelorMittal groups of companies from 2017 to 2022, and the indicators of our company.

Based on this database, we identified the top 4 fatal risks: work at height, electrical safety, rotating equipment and moving equipment.

Over the past three years, we have focused our efforts and investments on them. Training programs, personnel coaching, monitoring and control at workplaces, mentoring, implementation of engineering solutions are focused on these topics. This does not mean that other issues are not addressed at the plant. There is a full understanding of the full range of hazards faced by staff and contractors.

In addition, throughout the ArcelorMittal Group there is such a thing as the 10 Golden Rules that save lives. About ten years ago, the corporation created a set of key principles of operational discipline, the observance of which should significantly reduce injuries at its facilities. They are framed as employee commitments, each beginning with the phrase «I pledge,» «I shall not.»

We promote these 10 rules, which resonate with our program, to outline the company’s expectations of its employees and to develop in them an understanding that their lives and health are core values for the corporation.

In turn, the company, as an employer, makes significant efforts to create a safe environment for people. Over the past few years, AMKR has been actively implementing the «Workplace Hazard Control» program. Hazardous factors are jointly assessed by production representatives and occupational safety specialists, and their recommendations form the basis for budgeting relevant measures.

What results in terms of reduction of occupational accidents can we talk about in recent years?

We are persistently working to achieve zero fatal accidents at work. The occupational injury severity rate was 0.029 compared to 0.043 in 2022. Allowable work injuries resulted in 1,109 calendar days of lost earning capacity in 2023 compared to 1,842 for 2022.

How did you have to change your approach to labor safety given the proximity of the enterprise to the front line?

We in Kryvyi Rih experience the impact of the war on a daily basis, sirens are sounded here several times a day, “arrivals” are not uncommon both in the region and in the city. In addition, as you know, the energy infrastructure is subjected to heavy shelling, and this has a negative impact not only on the performance of the industry, but also directly on the safety of production.

If we go back, when the full-scale invasion began, a central headquarters was established at the enterprise. Subsequently, it coordinated activities for the safety of employees and assets under the conditions of military operations.

We took a number of decisions to keep employees safe: we immediately provided information and training on evacuation rules in the event of an airborne alarm, as well as the development of military operations in the vicinity of the plant. We provided critical process personnel with personal protective equipment in case of a nuclear threat (dosimeters, etc.).

A lot of work is going on to bring our bomb shelters into proper condition – there are quite a large number of such protective structures on the balance sheet of the enterprise.

Amid intensified attacks of aggressors, we constantly inform our employees how to act in such situations. We have developed a special memo, which is distributed to all employees, including newcomers and contractors.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih has been conducting first aid training for its personnel. The course includes some techniques for injuries sustained in military conditions. For example, this is the correct application of hemostatic tourniquets, tourniquets, which are actively used on the front line. Production personnel are trained by the company’s medical service – its doctors and paramedics have undergone appropriate training and have the necessary qualifications.

Does the company conduct labor safety training and what categories of personnel are covered by it?

Our personnel undergoes the necessary training required by the Ukrainian legislation – it is carried out in the specialized training center of the enterprise.

In addition, there are internal programs developed on the basis of corporate requirements taking into account the legislation of Ukraine.

For example, the company holds a three-day course «Take Care of Yourself». It consists of two days of theoretical training in the classroom and one day of practice, when the acquired knowledge is practiced at the production site. The main participants of the course are workers and foremen of the enterprise. The program is designed to develop competencies to perform production tasks in a safe manner, correctly identify risks and respond to them correctly.

There is a corporate two-day program «Safety Leadership» for top managers. We aim to train all personnel 100% in these two programs. There are also technical courses (working at heights, etc.).

What about contractors?

The company tries to conduct training not only for its own personnel, but also for employees of contractors. Now our training center is not licensed to carry out such activities with third-party organizations. But before we allow contractors to perform certain works (this applies to large-scale operations related to the implementation of investment projects), we conduct initial special training with them and inform them about our internal requirements.

What industry-specific technologies and safety solutions are applied at the company’s production facilities?

We try to implement modern technological solutions, focusing on our list of top-4 risks. While earlier there was some skepticism about their use in occupational health and safety, now there is an understanding that modern technologies, IT solutions, digitalization, automation, and innovation are increasingly applicable approaches.

As part of the «Top four killers» program in 2022-2023, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih actively purchased various voltage alarms in power supplies. We install video surveillance systems on special equipment and vehicles, sensors that react to obstacles and pedestrians, sound sensors for reversing, etc. Newly purchased Caterpillar equipment is already supplied with such equipment. In other cases we retrofit the equipment with the help of local suppliers.

The company also installs modern limit switches for emergency stop of belt conveyors instead of outdated ones. This program is universally implemented in all shops where there is conveyor production. Fencing of conveyor belts and creation of physical barriers for personnel safety are also being implemented.

Starting from 2023, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih is introducing the practice of using chest video recorders for technical personnel working with electrical installations – similar to those used by police officers. This makes it possible to analyze the actions of employees for unsafe behavior and non-compliance with instructions. Alas, last year one of the fatalities at work was due to exposure to high voltage.

Also this year, we have already planned and budgeted for the purchase of equipment to equip premises and structural subdivisions with electrical equipment: locks and readers to restrict personnel access. It is planned that they will respond either to a fingerprint or to an electronic badge.

The actual amount of expenditures aimed at occupational safety and health of the company’s employees for 2023 amounted to UAH 289 million. However, in 2024, the company will invest more than $50 million for the implementation of key projects related to labor protection.

We try to track innovations that exist in the market, but it is difficult to implement them in the conditions of war and unstable economic situation.

At the same time, there is a constant dialog not only within the enterprise, but also with colleagues from other businesses. For example, at the end of 2023, six senior managers of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih visited the company’s plants in Brazil. This year, together with colleagues from production, they participated in the global forum on safety and reliability of technological processes in sintering and blast furnace production. Such events are held regularly. We share best practices and try to implement them at our enterprise.

At the Group level, we should mention the global contract and cooperation with dss+ (FPS audits (audits of measures to prevent the number of fatal accidents) and PSM (process management system)) assessments.

To what extent, in your opinion, is Ukrainian legislation adapted to modern labor protection requirements and what should be changed?

Ukrainian legislation in one or another aspect is not yet adapted to modern realities, and in many respects inherited old, still Soviet sectoral norms.

The topic is very voluminous, but there are some obvious things that require revision. Now the country is actively moving towards European integration, which means that the legislative base should be adapted to it. In time, we will have to fully comply with them and apply the practices that the industry in the EU uses.

For example, the Soviet practice, the so-called tag system, is still used to isolate electrically driven mechanisms. The power source is shut down, isolated with a key-tick, which is removed from the control panel. But this has long been outdated, other solutions are used in the world, in particular, the LOTO system (Lockout/Tagout, warning lockout and tagout). In this case, the control point is isolated, a lock is physically installed, and the personnel authorized to start the equipment has individual keys. Roughly speaking, the possibility of unauthorized «turning on the switch» is eliminated. This applies not only to electrical equipment, but to any type of drive or type of energy.

Right now we are forced to duplicate both approaches, which complicates the process. It would be right to bring into the industry regulations the ability to use LOTO along with the tag system. Such a solution would not add additional cost to the government or complicate the legal framework. It would help not only us, but also our colleagues in the Ukrainian steel industry.

Another example. We still have archaic requirements regarding paper-based document flow for labor protection, first of all, the permit system. Permission orders are filled out manually, on a paper form of an approved sample. But there are many variants of application of modern IT solutions. We have seen this with our own eyes in Brazil, at the company’s European plants, and worked in our pilot workshops. As testing has shown, it speeds up the process by 20-30%, gives more time to prepare the workplace, reduces the risk of human error.

How does ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih reduce emissions and does it introduce energy efficient technologies?

In recent decades, the company has done a lot of work to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Thus, since 2006, the plant has reduced the total amount of pollutant emissions into the atmosphere by 84%. Such results were achieved through the introduction of efficient technologies, reconstruction and modernization of emission sources, modernization of gas cleaning equipment, and decommissioning of obsolete facilities. In the last two years, this reduction was supplemented by a drop in production rates as a result of Russian aggression.

Over the past decade, AMKR has decommissioned four old coke batteries, two of which – No. 1 and No. 2 – after the war began in 2022. The company has shut down its open-hearth production and the sinter plant at the metallurgical plant. In parallel, we are moving towards modernization of production assets.

Does AMKR use electricity from renewable energy sources?

Currently, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih purchases electricity from several suppliers, while the volume of electricity from renewable sources is growing. We are talking about solar and wind generation. Depending on weather conditions and time of year, the share of renewable electricity in the structure of purchased electricity is up to 23%, this figure varies.

In recent years, our company has been actively considering the possibility of building its own power plants based on renewable sources. There is confidence that we will realize these projects after the advent of peace in Ukraine.

In addition, at the corporate level there is a commitment to decarbonization, to reducing the carbon footprint, and we, being a part of it, strive to fulfill these obligations. But, unfortunately, the war is setting our plans back. In particular, we had planned to build a pelletizing plant, but this project has now been put on pause. However, after Ukraine’s victory, we will definitely return to the implementation of our investment program.

Overall, in 2024-2025, the budget for capital investment projects with an energy efficiency component will total more than $32 million.