How Should We Look at the Draft Law on Occupational Health and Safety – G.Emre Gürcanlı
Before making detailed discussions on the Occupational Health and Safety Law, it is necessary to draw a general framework and place the discussions in this context. Although the detailed opinions on each individual article of the law in question are formed as a result of long discussions by the experts and parties of the component of our Parliament, it is thought that it is not meaningful to discuss the law itself.
Occupational health and safety is a part of class struggles and should be examined in the context of social relations, then it should be addressed in line with the rights and gains of workers on a workplace basis, and at the last stage it should be evaluated as a technical issue. The aforementioned draft law reduced the issue to a technical dimension only. While the most important aspects of the issue can only be solved with improvements in working life and especially with the regulations in favor of labor in the Labor Law, we have come across a law almost prepared with the motive of how we can assign the responsibilities to “job security experts and assistants” as “employer representatives”.
In short, occupational health and safety is a social issue that also has “technical” dimensions, but this dimension is of secondary importance. It will be useful to consider three headings one by one in order to draw the framework:
1. OSH should be examined in the context of class struggles and social relations
When we put class struggles at the top of the hierarchy, naturally, “Why do occupational accidents occur?” The question will begin to become clearer. There is a process in which the working class works more with less wages, working hours are uncertain, subcontracting, insecure and insecure working life is not a secondary but a primary labor regime that replaces the traditional production structure. An important aspect of this process is that the working classes lose their gains in occupational health and safety, and become victims of more and more severe occupational accidents and occupational diseases. Looking at the relationship between labor and capital, it is seen that the working classes have lost many of their gains, and the irregular, flexible and oppressive working conditions of capitalism have made subcontracting a fundamental mode of production. Capitalism always wants to make a profit, and in order to make a profit, it has to constantly produce and grow. It has to exploit human labor for profit, to increase the exploitation of labor, the rate of exploitation on the basis of individual workers. To increase the surplus value when we consider a single worker:
– Wages should be lowered,
-Even if the wage remains the same, it should be worked longer and more intensively,
All expenses other than wages should be eliminated or reduced.
However, after putting them forward, the second stage can be passed and discussed.
2. OHS should be analyzed in the corporate scale, under the heading of organization of work, as a reflection of class struggles.
Along with long, intense and tiring work, the fact that the occupational safety measures to be taken against the risks in the workplace are not taken necessarily points to itself. Although it is true that occupational safety is given importance in order to increase productivity in large enterprises, it is the first “expense” item to be cut down when it is considered that this brings too much expense, while such an item is not even considered in small enterprises. One of the most important points in occupational safety and worker health is the proper planning and organization of the work and ensuring the participation of workers in all these stages.
For example, it would be beneficial to concentrate on the construction of shopping malls and hydroelectric power plants (HES), which have become widespread in recent years. Companies that will open a shop in any shopping center or that want to finish the construction of the HEPP and start production immediately due to government incentives and limited production time (most HEPPs have a life expectancy of 10-15 years), especially big companies, if they are tenants for the project to arrive on time, ” ”, they constantly press the ”main contractor” company if they have already bought it. If it does not arrive on time, the opening of the store or HEPP will not take place, production or sales will not be possible and loss will be incurred. Although the contract tries to include penal clauses regarding these, there is constant pressure from above instead of entering this process. This type of construction is always carried out by a large “main contractor”. The main contractor company divides the work into parts, distributes the work because there are “subcontractor” companies that it works constantly and there are “subcontractor” companies or “worker teams” where subcontractors work constantly (although the term subcontractor is not different from the subcontractor in legal terms, it is here to denote relatively large companies. and small firms-worker teams, which are seen as subcontractors in the general perception). There is constant pressure from the main contractor to the subcontractors, and from the subcontractors to the subcontractors/workers teams to complete the work on time. In fast, intense and stressful working conditions, occupational health and safety measures are seen as completely unnecessary.
Working at once instead of 3-4 in the same environment, forcing excessive capacity in a short time to complete the work (such as producing with 20 machines instead of 10 machines, piling up too many heavy equipment in limited areas) will make work murders inevitable, physically as well as in life. Likewise, the introduction of a large number of subcontractors into the production area at once, the lack of coordination between them, and the glittering projects are not behind the big companies, but actually the work teams of 5-30 people, independent from each other, sometimes inexperienced and uneducated, insecure, exposed to intense labor exploitation! Add to all this the absence of any involvement of the workers in the organization and planning of the work, and the workers will become automatons that carry out their orders to the letter.
3. Effective prevention and prevention strategies should be implemented to ensure occupational health and safety.
After all the above points have been said, it is possible to move on to the “technical” dimension of the work, and focusing only on this dimension will not lead to progress in occupational health and safety. Our Parliament has repeatedly stated that the draft law on OHS focuses only on this area, and that it deals with this area completely incompletely and incorrectly, by considering individual laws. Before the problems in the first two titles are solved, technical solutions will be insufficient and cannot go beyond the eyewash. It will be seen that this point of view is extremely incomplete and wrong.
When we focus a little on the risks in the workplace, it will be seen that every production process has its own risks. Chemicals, dusts, working at heights, cutting, penetrating objects, electricity, use of machinery all threaten workers. The statement “The workers are untrained and do not use the personal protective equipment we provide (such as helmets, glasses, gloves, seat belts)” for a safe work is perhaps one of the last points to be said in risky working environments. Because, for occupational safety experts, the most important issue in the risk prevention hierarchy is to change the “environment” and make it safe. For this, the following points should be emphasized in order:
a. Dangerous work should not be done. For example: Jeans grinding is not a mandatory job for humanity. In order to grind jeans in a healthy and safe way, workers must literally dress like an astronaut, otherwise silicosis disease will definitely lead to death in a very short time. What needs to be done is to ban denim grinding! Personal protective equipment such as training and masks to be given to workers are meaningless.
b. Hazardous materials, methods, tools and equipment should not be used. For example, asbestos is a carcinogen. It is especially used in the construction industry due to its ease of use and cheapness. According to the data of the World Labor Organization (ILO), it is estimated that 100 thousand people die every year due to asbestos. Moreover, although asbestos production in the world has decreased continuously since the 1970s, the risk still continues for those who have been in contact in the past. Although it has just been banned in Turkey, it is still found on the roofs and installations of our houses, and the risks that may arise in repair and maintenance works are still in place. The risk posed by thousands of buildings to be destroyed by the “Urban Transformation” loot will herald a new wave of cancer not only for workers but also for society. Healthier material can be used instead, but capitalism insists on using the cheap, efficient and profitable, even if it is dangerous, to the end, and in return it kills thousands of workers. When struggles reach a certain point, they are banned and “penalties” are given.
NS. In dangerous jobs, risks need to be reduced. Excessive profit greed has created more risky working environments. If it is not possible to eliminate dangerous works and it is necessary to use dangerous substances, the third stage is started and the risks are tried to be reduced. But for this, the main point to be reached is to make the environment safe first. For example, thousands of people lose their lives as a result of falling from a height, so guardrails and network systems against falling should be installed during work at height. All this is legally required.
D. Personal protective equipment should be used. However, it should be emphasized once again that personal protectors are not the main topic in preventing work accidents and occupational diseases. Another aspect of the work is that the personal protective materials in general disturb the workers, make it difficult to work, especially the workers who are forced to work quickly, if they use personal protectors, they produce less parts/work per unit time and tend not to use this equipment.
to. Workers need to be trained in the work they do. After all the above mentioned, it can be said that education and personal protectors are important. For example, a worker working on a pier should work on a pier that complies with standards, guardrails should be installed, and then it should be discussed whether there is a safety belt and whether or not to take occupational health and safety measures.