18:40, May 17, 2013
Four workers at the Nairit Rubber Plant lost their lives when two explosions shattered the facility on May 14, 2009.
Hrant Karapetyan’s son Artour was 39 when he dies in the blast. The father is now 81 and lives alone with only a photo album of Artour to keep him company. Every time he leafs through the album, tears stream down his face.
The Karapetyans left Baku for Yerevan. Hrant’s wife died a few months before the tragic accident.
Yesterday, he visited the grave of his son who was working as a locksmith at Nairit.
The others who died that day were 50 year-old Levon Levonyan (a shift change manager), 50 year-old Vahan Gharibyan (a distillery equipment operator) and 51 year-old Hovhannes Hovhannisyan (an equipment operator).
Criminal charges of negligence were filed against several division managers.
A Yerevan court later dropped the charges under the provisions of a general amnesty that was declared in June, 2009
Rouzanna Petrosyan and Yelena Hovhannisyan, the wife and daughter of Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, who had worked at Nairit for 29 years, believe that technical reasons were the cause of the explosions, i.e., that the equipment was faulty.
The two women couldn’t afford a lawyer to ascertain what actually happened on May 14, 2009.
“No specific reason or interpretation was ever given during the court process. We believe it had no be technically related at not human error,” says Yelena who followed the court proceedings in person.
The day after the explosions, the RA Ministry of Emergency Situations formed a technical investigative committee to look into the incident.
In the conclusion of the committee, a copy of which the ministry provided Hetq, it is noted that the last time the plant had undergone a safety inspection had been in September 2007. As a result, plant management had been given a check list of conditions to rectify.
The plant did not undergo a safety inspection in 2008, even though the National Technical Safety Center had warned that given the nature of Nairit’s operations, the facility needed periodic inspection.
Nairit management had argued that the plant had shut down operations at the time and thus there was no need for a safety inspection. However, the plant later recommenced operations without informing the Safety Center.
The investigative committee stated that it wasn’t able to conduct a thorough inquiry of the incident and get to the true cause of the explosions because Nairit failed to provide sufficient technical and other relevant documentation. The committee stated that this was a violation of relevant Armenian safety laws.
Nevertheless, the committee noted that it had been able to discover a number of violations, which directly or indirectly, might have been factors in the two versions of the incident that the committee proposed as most probable.
The first version was that violations of the technical regime in the production process occurred, most likely in regulatory and warning system equipment. The second version is that wastes had built up in the plant piping and that when staff attempted to clear it out an explosion occurred under external pressure.
The committee, in its findings, also noted that one of the reasons for the blast was a low level of work discipline and faulty equipment and systems. It also clearly stated that Nairit management hindered its investigation of its members.
In the end, no one at Nairit was ever prosecuted or held accountable for the deaths of four workers.
If plant management had nothing to hide, why did they deliberately prevent the investigative committee from doing its job? The court never took this into account in its deliberations.
Vahan Melkonyan was Nairit’s Plant Manager at the time. He now serves as the Interstate Bank’s representative in Armenia.
After the explosion, the plant covered the burial costs of the four dead workers and promised to pay their families five years of wages of the deceased. The plant is still paying those wages, but with delays.
This year, the plant has not paid any wages to Hrant Karapetyan.
P.S. Nairit had contracted a firm called Dami Ltd. to conduct a technical safety inspection. The founder and director of the company is Davit Sargsyan, a nephew of RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan
Dami Ltd. had received a license to conduct safety inspections from the Ministry of Emergency Situations a mere two months before the explosion.
Dami Ltd. also inspected a company called Armenian Molybden Productions. On April 24 of 2012 an explosion there injured eight workers. Criminal charges in this case were also dropped.
On May 29, 2012, two workers were killed in an explosion at the Electron Plant. It too had been inspected by Dami Ltd.