Tougher regulations aim to curb workplace accidents
by Hazal Ateş
ISTANBULSep 09, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Hazal Ateş
Sep 09, 2014 12:00 am
Construction sites are again under scrutiny following last week's fatal elevator accident in Istanbul's Mecidiyeköy district which killed 10 workers. As companies operating at the construction site continue trading accusations, the government has decided to introduce new regulations to ensure work safety in the face of negligence by the private sector. The accident was discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.
The accident was discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday and government spokesman Bülent Arınç said a special investigation would be launched into the accident by the Prime Ministry's Inspection Board. Arınç stated that an action plan will be adopted to prevent future accidents .
Under new plans, the current work safety system in construction in which most fatal accidents have happened, will be revised. All regulations regarding those sectors will be reviewed and brought into compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) standards.
All elements of a building's construction, from elevators to scaffolding, from electricity to building material, will be brought in line with ILO criteria. More importantly, workers will not be forced to take risks if any part of the construction involves life-threatening, hazardous conditions such as a faulty elevator. Employers will be obliged to provide a "lifeline" to workers such as safety measures against possible risks. The elevator that crashed to the ground in Mecidiyeköy from the 32nd floor did not have a mechanism to soften its landing according to the experts. With the government's new regulations, the elevators would be required to have equipment that protect the workers it carries. Companies will also be required to employ more technical personnel charged with job safety and new regulations will be implemented to tighten control of the job safety companies and experts.
Saturday's accident also revealed legal loopholes regarding elevators in high-rise buildings. Elevators are required to undergo maintenance once a month but in skyscrapers like the one under construction in Mecidiyeköy, the elevators are legally defined as "transportation equipment" and are not subject to regular maintenance. Their maintenance is at the discretion of company undertaking job safety at the construction site. New regulations will hold job safety experts liable for the inspection of construction sites and authorities will regularly inspect the sites. Elevators will also undergo more endurance and other relevant tests after their installation.
Companies not fulfilling obligations regarding the safety of elevators will be shut down. Another measure under consideration is the classification of contractors. Regulations will separate small-scale construction companies and those undertaking large-scale projects like the housing block in Mecidiyeköy in terms of responsibility and fines. Contractors endangering work safety will be banned from the profession and fined. Construction workers will also be categorized with regard to their jobs at the construction site. For instance, a worker with a welder's certificate will not be permitted to work at another job at the construction site outside welding.
Their professional skills will also be inspected.Initial findings of the investigation into the elevator accident showed negligence on the part of job safety and prosecutors ordered the arrest of five people including safety experts at the construction site, yesterday. New regulations that the government are mulling over will bring deterrent sentences and fines for companies in charge of inspecting and providing work safety. Experts say employees and executives of the subcontractor responsible for the job safety at the Mecidiyeköy site may face charges of reckless homicide and would be partially responsible for the lack of safety.
Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk Çelik said the elevator accident "appeared to be the result of greed and lack of awareness of safety rather than lack of regulations." Speaking to 24 TV, Çelik said various parties, from the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers tasked with the inspection of elevators to subcontractors and construction companies were responsible for the maintenance and reparation of elevators.
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