Work-related accidents continue claiming lives in Turkey despite measures taken by the government, with an average of four people dying daily
Turkey is marking Occupational Health and Safety Week with a series of events this week focused on improving the safety of workers in every sector. Work safety or its lack thereof encompasses all sectors, especially construction and mining. As demonstrated by two mine disasters last year in western Turkey's Soma and central Turkey's Ermenek – which killed 319 people in total – mine safety is still lacking considerably despite regular inspections and fines.
According to a nongovernmental organization (NGO), 351 workers have died in work-related accidents since January 2015. An average of four people die per day in work-related accidents and another five suffer from injuries. Serhat Ayrım, a deputy undersecretary at the Labor and Social Security Ministry, had recently announced that about 524 work-related accidents were reported daily in the country. Workers working on high scaffolds without a safety belt, especially at construction sites, run by small-scale companies, are a common sight in the country.
As a major event on the issue commenced in the capital Ankara by the Labor and Social Security Ministry, a news report came in about a painter working on the exterior of a five-story building who fell from the fourth floor in the city of Adıyaman. The painter was on a scaffold and was apparently not wearing a safety belt when he lost his balance.
The country has high standards of work safety in line with international guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO), but officials say regulations, harsh sentences against companies ignoring safety and other measures cannot be the sole solution to preventing accidents. A change of mindset is essential for companies to implement costly safety measures and to help workers forced to work without safety precautions to make a living, according to experts.
The Parliament passed a bill this year that boosts the rights of workers in terms of work safety. The bill reduced the working hours of miners while bringing heavier sentences for companies involved in incidents stemming from noncompliance with work safety standards. It also increased fines for the absence of safety equipment in hazardous workplaces such as mines and construction sites.
The government had already implemented an occupational health and safety law in 2012 that brought forward an approach based on risk assessment in workplaces and obliged businesses to ensure the safety of all of their employees through the employment of safety experts.
Highlighted among the new laws are rewards for companies with a good safety record such as lower taxes as well as tougher fines or sentences for ill-reputed ones with poor safety records.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said a change of mentality was "indispensable" both for employers and employees, in a statement after last year's Ermenek mine disaster. He had stressed that raising awareness would help decrease work-related deaths that are "difficult to prevent only through legislation."
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