KEEN EYES

Turkey 2014 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | REVIEW: HEALTH & SAFETY

The Labor Health and Safety Law under Article No. 6331 outlines the obligations of employers in the workplace.

The research results of TurkStat on current work accidents and health-related work problems show an upsettingly high number of employees who fall victim to work accidents and/or health problems. However, on a positive note, it is very encouraging to observe the steps that have been taken in our country, especially over the last few years, concerning health and safety at work.

If we look at the data from TurkStat from across Turkey within a one-year period, 3% of employees have suffered from a work accident and nearly 2.1% are faced with a health-related work problem. Analyzing the sectors reveals that the highest number of people facing health-related work problems and accidents are in the sector of mining and stone quarrying.

The procedures in place for the prevention, prohibition, support, and sanctions in the field of health and safety in the workplace were supported and outlined by Article No. 4857 of the Labor Law together with the approval of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that operates within the scope of the acquis communautarie program of the EU.

Even though there were provisions concerning health and safety in the workplace, Section Five of Labor Code Article No. 4557, put into place on June 30, 2012, combined with Article No. 6331 of the Health and Safety in the Workplace Law, further made the law distinctive like that of the legislation of developed countries.

Article No. 6331 contains a systematic practice of precautions with the purpose of preventing the dangers of health and safety caused by working conditions, workplace accidents, or occupational illnesses. When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, we face broad legislation that involves legal, medical, and engineering sciences.

In an effort to guarantee health and safety in the workplace, Article No. 6333 aims to enhance the existing regulatory framework and further the rights and provisions for employers and employees. In this respect, this law brings very important changes to work life in Turkey and new provisions for employers and employees. The law and related regulations comply with the framework of the EU, and in some parts are an exact translation of the framework. The most distinctive aspect of Article No. 6331 is the range and application of the law. The law does not make any distinctions except very limited exceptions between the private and public sector, and it applies to every workplace, even with one employee and includes the employers and employees, apprentices, and interns, all working activities across all sectors.

With the aim of reducing the risks involved in health and safety in the workplace, the parties in work relations have to obey the required regulations. If we evaluate the existing regulations, the responsibility predominately lies with the employer. The employer should not transfer the financial costs of supporting employees while complying with the provisions in question, and should not abdicate from their own responsibility; should a third person represent them through a mandate, they must still comply with the provisions in question.

Whether the employees at the workplace comply or not with the provisions in the area of health and safety in the workplace, or whether employers do or do not provide the required means and equipment for health and safety in the workplace, they will still be held responsible in the eyes of the law. Consequently, employers face serious administrative fines if in violation of the required provisions.

In Article No. 6331 regarding provisions for employers, there is the condition of assigning a work safety expert at the workplace, as well as a workplace doctor and medical staff. The employer is obligated to ensure this service by recruiting an in-house expert, or providing the aforementioned services through an outside supplier. The work safety expert is responsible for guidance at the workplace, risk evaluation, mentoring the work environment, education and briefing, and keeping a register of when the workplace doctor performs medical checks.

Another very important task of the employer is to administer provisions of risk evaluation, control, measurement, and research. Employers have to ensure the required controls, measures, analysis, research of the work environment, and address the risks of the work environment, in which the employees might become victims.

The analysis of the defined dangers and determined risks is aimed toward reducing the risks that threaten health and safety in the workplace. In the case of sharing the same work environment among more than one employer, there should be distinctive risk evaluations. According to the level of danger, the evaluation should be renewed once in a maximum of two, four, and six years.

The preparation of emergency plans at the workplace for fire safety, first aid, and evacuation plans is also required in the provisions. The employer has to prepare emergency plans by evaluating previously possible emergency situations, and by taking into consideration the work environment, materials used, work equipment, and environmental conditions. The employer has to assign a sufficient number of persons and must ensure the availability of all the means and materials required to effectively execute emergency plans. In case of the sudden occurrence of serious, near, and unpredictable dangers, the employer must provide instructions for employees to stop their work safely and withdraw to a secure area.

We believe that this law presents an important opportunity to raise production and strengthen the economy of our country, since the legislation was prepared over a long period and was completed and used in full application of the law. Our hope is that this opportunity will build the foundation of a healthy work life in our country.