In June and July, the Technical Surveillance Authority (TSA) conducted a safety inspection campaign in the Estonian peat deposits, aimed also at improving cooperation with peat harvesting companies.
According to a TSA report, the safety situation in the peat deposits has improved compared to previous years and the peat harvesting industry has developed a greater awareness of the requirements that regulate the field.
During the campaign, the TSA inspected 11 extraction areas in six major peat deposits that are harvested by nine companies. Since fire hazard is one of the risk factors in peat harvesting, the Rescue Board was also involved in the campaign to check whether fire safety rules were being followed.
In the case of five companies, no infringements were found, and the four remaining operators were issued precepts for remedying various shortcomings. Last year, the infringements found mostly concerned the required paperwork, whereas this year, most of the shortcomings discovered pertained to the general condition of the extraction areas. For example, some of the firefighting water reservoirs in the extraction areas had not been marked and maintained correctly and primary fire extinguishing equipment had not been installed on some of the machinery.
According to the Rescue Board, there have been 28 peatland fires this year. Most of them were caused by third-party negligence (smoking, careless handling of open fire, etc.). The companies inspected during the campaign were mostly compliant with fire safety rules and their operational readiness for responding promptly to fire emergencies was good.
Since peat fires incur large costs, fire safety rules must be followed to the letter in the peatlands and in their immediate vicinity. According to the Estonian Peat Association, a recent fire cost the owner of an extraction area approximately 200,000 euros, with additional losses in profits due to fire damage and production shutdown.
According to the Deputy Director General of the TSA Kaur Kajak, last years inspection campaign sent a clear signal that regulations and awareness in the peat harvesting industry had to be improved. As a result, motions to amend the safety regulations were drafted based on the input received from the harvesters and the Peat Association. The amendments came into force in March 2011.
The TSA conducts peat deposit inspection campaigns annually during the peat harvesting season.