Safety violations costly for both employers, workers

Safety violations costly for both employers, workers

September 11, 2011, Sunday/ 20:30:00

Companies can prevent accidents in the workplace and the subsequent payment of huge compensation dues to employees by taking relatively less expensive safety measures, pundits argue.

According to observers, however, most Turkish businesses fail to implement these practices. This situation, though, has been lent greater importance and is being discussed more frequently now as İstanbul hosts the XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work from Sept. 11 and 15.

Nuri Ersan, the founder of Dönüşen Adam İş Sağlığı ve Güvenliği, a Turkish job safety firm, told Sunday’s Zaman that companies may be required to pay more than TL 100,000 in fines when inspected by government ministries because they ignore basic job safety requirements.

Noting that they provide courses to companies that teach them how to help prevent accidents in the workplace, Ersan stated that most workplace accidents result from a lack of even the most basic safety measures. “People [companies] can avoid these accidents by spending just TL 1,000 on average for basic [safety] requirements. … Some companies that could not be bothered with these cheap measures have had to pay compensation [to the victims of accidents] reaching TL 100,000 in the past,” he explained. Ersan indicated, however, that employers cannot always escape with such little harm. “There are some that we know who were sentenced to prison for accidents which the court decided were the employer’s responsibility. … You can add [to that] fines imposed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the Social Security Institution [SGK],” he noted.

A number of experts from around the world will participate in the fair to discuss global steps in job safety. Official data show the host country’s track record is bleak: Most companies in Turkey have a long rap sheet when it comes to neglect of job safety. According to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), Turkey ranked 80th in terms performance in job safety in 2009. More than 171 employees died in thousands of job accidents in Turkey that same year. The figures suggest Turkey has a long way to go before it achieves a better position in regards to job safety, as pundits put it.

The very basic and most important right of employees is to work in a safe environment, but many companies in Turkey, unfortunately, fail to do their part in this regard. Failure to provide a safe environment, as a result, leaves thousands of people with disabilities due to accidents in the workplace, while the number of deaths over the past few years is in the hundreds.

Turkey has long discussed the deaths of workers in the shipyards of İstanbul’s Tuzla district, the most debated instance of job safety in the country in recent years. The Tuzla shipyard zone, home to some 40 shipyards, is notorious for the accidental deaths of workers. Between 1992 and 2010, 135 dockworkers were killed in occupational accidents. Observers blamed their employers for unsatisfactory safety measures at the shipyards, while it is true that most workplaces disregard the safety regulations that are in place and force their employees to work in unsafe conditions. Job risks still prevail in Tuzla, however, demonstrating the lack of commitment to safety requirements in the workplace. The lack of measures taken by these firms is not encouraging. More than 784,000 accidents happened on the job in Turkey in the past decade and more than 10,000 of these resulted in the loss of lives.

Data indicate that workplace accidents in Turkey occur most frequently during the initial and final hours of the workday. When we look at the frequency of job accidents by age groups, the 25-29 range experiences the most occupational accidents, SGK data show. The same data reveal that workers between the ages of 40 and 44 suffer work-induced illnesses with the highest frequency.

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