Occupational Health and Safety Conference in Istanbul

Three-day conference includes social security officials, employers, workers’ organizations as well as occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. collaborating on the development and implementation of national policies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related accidents

Three-day conference includes social security officials, employers, workers’ organizations as well as occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. collaborating on the development and implementation of national policies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related accidents

ISTANBUL - Under the title of “Health and Safety Promotions at Workplaces", the seventh International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health (OHS) kicked off on Monday in Istanbul, offering a forum to share experiences of different stakeholders and learn how to establish good practices.

Intended to provide a platform for information sharing, coordination and cooperation, the conference will run Monday until Wednesday, with the theme established as “Health and Safety Promotion in the Workplace.” The conference includes 56 topics of discussions including subcontracting, disabled employees, ergonomics and psychological risk factors.

Turkish Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk Celik, speaking at the inauguration of the conference, said, "During the last few centuries, the concept of occupational health and safety has advanced and changed in accordance with the development in working life. Nowadays occupational health and safety is considered to be essentially modern, a proactive and preventive systematic approach with the mutual participation of all stakeholders."

According to International Labor Organization (ILO) numbers, there are 3 billion workers in the world, 1.2 billion of whom are female. Every day six thousand workers die, meaning four every minute, from causes related to their work. On an annual basis, about 360,000 die from workplace accidents and approximately 1,950,000 die from workplace-linked disease.

Recalling Turkey's Occupational Health and Safety Act published by the Turkish Ministry of Labor and Social Security on 30 June 2012, Celik said, "With the Law published in 2012, the range of occupational health and safety was expanded, and the bill has increased overall awareness."

The law governs all state and private sector employers, including service industries such as schools, kindergartens and restaurants. 

"The publication of the Law and the increase in the number of OHS professionals is reflected in the decrease in the number of deaths due to workplace accidents by 56 percent," added Celik.

Although the base number of reported injuries remained roughly flat, the injury rate per 1,000 employed workers in Turkey has decreased from about 13.7 in 2003 to 6.27 in 2012, a decrease of 54 percent.

However, over 270 people died in work-related accidents in the first three months of 2014, according to a report released in April by the Istanbul Workers' Health and Job Safety Assembly. Their report said that 112 died in work-related accidents in March, while 77 died in February and 87 died in January. Most of the reported work-related deaths were in the construction, mining, trade and agriculture sectors.

Kani Beko, president of the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), told Anadolu Agency, "Due to a lack of job security and difficulties with union-forming, workplace accidents in Turkey are almost murder."

Mahmut Arslan, president of the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions, noted more than one million subcontracted workers in public institutions were being excluded from the right to join unions or in collective labor agreements, something which deepens existing problem with the formation and workplace representation of unions. "Some 10 per cent, or 12,000 Turkish laborers, cannot join trade unions, due to legal difficulties,” Arslan said.

According to ILO figures, Turkey ranks first in Europe and third in the world for fatal work accidents. The ILO says 18 out of 100,000 insured laborers die every year in work accidents, seven times greater than the EU average of 2.5.

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