17-year-old dies in preventable workplace accident 

Photo: Birgun

A 17-year-old died on Monday in a preventable workplace accident, once again sparking concern about occupational safety in Turkey, the Birgün daily reported.

Yiğit Zamanis was doing a plastering job at a construction site when a crane dropped a metal block on his head. His co-workers had previously warned their supervisors that it was too windy to operate a crane, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. 

According to Zamanis’ family, the young man had been working without insurance and his helmet was faulty. “Yiğit [Zamanis] was not even a regular worker at the site,” said his uncle. “He was visiting friends who worked there and just joined them. It was his first day of work and of course, he was not insured.”

The construction site was in Istanbul’s Güngören neighborhood, which has been part of the Turkish government’s urban renewal project.  

Ömer Kiriş, chairman of the TOZDER (Tozkoparanlar Dernegi) neighborhood association, said Zamanis was the victim of corporate greed. “It was a windy day, and the metal had not been properly secured to the crane. This poor boy was doing a plastering job right underneath it and the metal dropped on his head.”

Kiriş said the incident was in no way an accident but manslaughter. “The workers warned their supervisors about the weather, they raised the point that their helmets were substandard, and they asked not to work in those conditions. What is a 17-year-old doing under a crane? Are there no supervisors inspecting the crane’s operation? But nobody [company authorities] cares about the workers.”

Occupational accidents are worryingly common in Turkey. According to the Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG), Turkey has recorded at least 1,190 deaths in work-related accidents to date in 2023.

İSİG General Coordinator Murat Çakır had earlier said the reason for the record number of fatalities in work-related accidents has to do with the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he said aim to turn Turkey into a source of cheap labor for Europe.

According to Çakır, workers feel obliged to work under unsafe conditions fearing that they will become jobless and unable to support their families.

People have been suffering from lax work safety standards for decades in Turkey, where workplace accidents are nearly a daily occurrence. In the worst work-related accident in the country’s history, 301 miners lost their lives in an explosion in Manisa’s Soma district in May 2014.

A yearly report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on labor rights reveals that Turkey is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people. According to the Brussels-based ITUC, workers’ freedoms and rights continued to be relentlessly denied with police crackdowns on protests in Turkey in 2022. 

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