In 2001, the International Labour Organization (ILO) declared April 28 as “World Day for Safety and Health at Work”. Every year, the week of May is celebrated as Occupational Safety and Health Week. This year, it will be celebrated between May 4-10.
According to official statistics from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistical agency, and the Social Security Institution (SGK), Turkey has the highest number of worker deaths. Despite regulations and measures taken to prevent occupational accidents, the number of accidents and deaths is increasing. According to a report by the Occupational Health and Safety Assembly (İSİG), at least 1,843 people lost their lives in occupational accidents in Turkey in 2022, and at least 463 workers lost their lives in the first three months of 2023.
The report also states that three industries (construction, agriculture, and transportation) are responsible for the majority of occupational accidents in 2022 (953 worker deaths). These industries are dominated by “precarious work”, with long working hours, intense work, and lack of insurance and regulations. There is little or no union organization in these industries, or they are weak and clustered in certain professions.
In construction, falls from heights such as exterior scaffolding, roofs, elevator shafts, etc. account for more than half of the deaths, while the other two main causes are crushing/collapse and electric shocks.
On the other hand, the main causes of death for seasonal agricultural workers are the use of inappropriate transportation vehicles during travel to or from the fields, worn-out tractors, inadequate worker housing/resting/cleaning facilities, and tick bites, among others.
According to experts, Turkey is not at the desired level in terms of occupational health and safety (OHS). Therefore, new regulations must be made, and awareness-raising activities should be increased. Şebnem Akman Balta, an OHS specialist and vice president of the Turkish Young Businessmen Association (TÜGİAD), said, “Safety and health must always be a priority in the workplace. According to research, 98% of occupational accidents and 99% of occupational diseases can be prevented. However, due to the failure to take necessary measures, many losses occur each year from work accidents and occupational diseases. Turkey is not yet at the desired level in terms of OHS. Therefore, new regulations and awareness-raising activities should be conducted.”
In occupational safety, planning is everything, not just a plan.
In 2001, the International Labor Organization (ILO) declared April 28th as “World Day for Safety and Health at Work”. Every year, Occupational Safety and Health Week is celebrated in May. This year, it will be celebrated between May 4th and 10th.
Şebnem Akman Balta, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Deputy Chairman of TÜGİAD, said the following in her statement regarding Occupational Health and Safety Week: “When we think about the mining accidents, earthquakes, fires, explosions, and flood disasters that have occurred in our country, we understand how important planning is. Planning is everything, not just a plan. At this point, the issue of occupational safety, which is vital for human life, becomes even more important for both employers and employees. Unfortunately, we have experienced and suffered from the loss of life in mining accidents and earthquakes. That’s exactly why the Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331 was prepared in 2012 to prevent deaths or injuries due to work accidents.”
All regulations must be implemented
Şebnem Akman Balta emphasized the need for the implementation of all provisions that have not yet been put into practice under Law No. 6331. She said, “Some changes can be proposed, such as updating the concepts of occupational health and safety experts, workplace medicine, and other health personnel, and using other health personnel instead of doctors, such as psychologists, to provide support when needed to increase focus, attention, empathy, and motivational work. Case evaluations should be planned, and lessons should be prepared for each educational level. With regard to OHS, we must ensure that national policies are created by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, and that the decisions taken are applicable. Inspections in workplaces should be carried out without prior notice, and the recommendation and observation books filled in by OHS experts should be transferred to the online system so that the ministry can immediately see all the books prepared, positive or negative. Corrections should be given reasonable times to workplaces, and if necessary, the state should contribute to relocating places with the risk of accidents.”
What needs to be done to reduce work accidents and deaths!
Şebnem Akman Balta, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Deputy Chairman of TÜGİAD, listed the following as the necessary measures for occupational safety:
• “Human first, health first, worker safety first” approach should be established in production and service processes to prevent work accidents and occupational diseases, and priority should be given to OHS measures and practices. It should not be ignored that the main responsibility for ensuring OHS in workplaces lies with the employer in all regulations to be made.
• As a new world order after the pandemic, the HYBRID Working Model should be put into a legal framework. Responsibility points that protect both the employer and the worker against accidents that occur at home should be determined. No grey area should be left.
• Child labor should be prevented in practice, and child workers should be directed to formal education.
• All negative practices against women and women’s labor should be eliminated; equal pay for equal work should be applied, and equal opportunities in employment should be provided.
• Regulations and practices related to OHS should cover all workplaces and all employees without any distinction based on sector or number of employees.
• Employment of uninsured workers should be prevented, and inspectors should go to the field to prevent informal work. Controls should be increased in explosive substance paint and textile factories. The identities of stacking machines should be regularly filed, and the periodic checks of all devices should be inspected every 3 or 6 months. Working conditions in the construction sector should be improved as well as those in the agricultural sector.
• It is an undeniable fact that the majority of work accidents occur in small-scale workplaces. Employee representatives’ job security should be brought to the same level as union representation.
• Ensuring OHS in workplaces is a team effort. This team should include doctors, technicians, engineers, personnel, health personnel, dietitians, ergonomists, psychologists, and other staff. The professional independence, annual leave, working hours, overtime work, personal development training, and other issues of all personnel working as OHS specialists, workplace doctors, and other health personnel should be reorganized.
• It should be mandatory to employ “full-time” OHS specialists in industrial enterprises in the hazardous and very hazardous classes with more than 100 employees. The state should cover the OHS service fee for workplaces with fewer than 10 employees.
• Post-graduate OHS training should be provided by universities.
• The obligation of employers to take precautions should be newly regulated with the guidance of occupational health and safety specialists by the Law No. 6331. Especially, the government’s inspection duty should be followed by labor inspectors in the field or online. The lives lost are the human capital of the state, and the extinguished mines and families who have experienced losses become many lost and insecure children in society. We should prevent workforce loss before the snowball grows without ignoring the problems. Holding workplace doctors and occupational safety specialists responsible for work accidents and occupational diseases without fulfilling their findings, requirements, and suggestions, and suspending their documents is an unfair practice. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY SPECIALISTS SHOULD BE WITNESSES, NOT DEFENDANTS. The professional independence and job security of workplace doctors and occupational safety specialists should be protected. The Ministry should fulfill its public inspection obligations.
• All causes and faults of all work accidents, fires, or explosions should be identified by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services (ÇSGB), the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, or the Ministry of Environment, and shared with the public to prevent such situations from happening again.
• All employees should be continuously provided with occupational health and safety education on their rights and responsibilities, and these trainings should be ensured to be given by constantly reminding the indispensable rules of the way the job is done.
• The education curriculum should start with basic education and instill a sense of responsibility in the society from a young age regarding the necessity of control on the issue of values education.
• The Work Accident and Occupational Diseases Statistics published by SGK do not reflect the truth. Information on work accidents and occupational diseases in workplaces should be collected in a database, and this information should be utilized for measurement and evaluation purposes.
• Occupational diseases should not only be considered as a compensation issue, but priority should be given to prevention. The perception that PREVENTION IS CHEAPER THAN PAYMENT should be instilled in workplaces, and all legal and administrative obstacles regarding the detection, treatment, and compensation of occupational diseases should be removed. A safe workplace that values human life should be motivated.
Source: (BYZHA) Beyaz News Agency