Kosovo power plant incident ignites workplace safety investigation

23/06/2014

The move follows an explosion at the Kosovo A power plant that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 23/06/14

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A special team of the Kosovo Energy Corporation is investigating this month's fatal explosion at the Kosovo A power plant. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]

Authorities said they are working on improving safety at a Kosovo power plant where an explosion this month killed two workers and injured 12 others.

Officials said a specialised team of the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEC) is still investigating the cause of the explosion at the Kosovo A power plant near Pristina.

"As proved by documented reports of inspections from external security institutions, KEC had undertaken all preventive security measures in the area where the incident occurred," Edmond Nulleshi, KEC executive director, told SETimes.

Thirty-three KEC workers have been killed at the plant since 1999, and there were 12 previous accidents this year that resulted in minor injuries. Nulleshi said KEC is implementing a plan to improve workers' safety.

Human error has not been ruled out in this month's fatal accident, said Basri Ibrahimi, Kosovo labour and welfare minister, who added that the incident suggests the need to increase employee awareness and improve safety itself.

"Signals placed at a working site, etc., are small investments that can save lives or prevent injuries in the workplace," Ibrahimi told SETimes.

Workers said construction sector employees are most vulnerable to injuries.

Izet Mustafa, head of the Independent Syndicate of Energy of Kosovo, said workers are exposed to risk because of antiquated equipment despite the fact that working conditions today are better than in the past.

"There are devices used since the power plant and the mine were opened in 1962. Many other devices also need investment and maintenance," Mustafa told SETimes.

The plant was built in 1962 with a plan for it to remain operational for 40 years. But the plant still operates because of the lack of power plants in Kosovo.

All workers are exposed to various risks at this power plant, said Selatin Krasniqi, one of the injured workers.

"Every worker should have in possession security devices, and normally they do. But incidents can also occur due to negligence, or excessive fatigue, because there is a work overload," Krasniqi told SETimes.

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The work is specialised and full safety may not always be guaranteed, said Rrahman Veseli, a KEC employee. "We work with coal and the heat is normal, not unbearable. When comparing job specifics with technological process we are involved in, it is difficult but bearable. . . . Perfect working conditions can never be met," Veseli told SETimes.

Worker demands for safety and better working conditions have been addressed but more improvement is necessary, said Bedri Pireva, a veteran power worker.

"After the [1999] war, there were investments in facilities, even in work safety, but there is still room for improvement. We still need working equipment, especially shoes, gloves, goggles, clothes resistant to heat," Pireva told SETimes.

What can Kosovo do to improve workplace safety? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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