Report reveals 26 dockyard workers died in the last seven months

A total of 26 dockyard workers have died in workplace accidents in the last seven months according to a report released by the Occupational Health and Safety Committee.

The report, which was published by the Duvar news website, revealed that since 2013 a total of 252 dockyard workers have died in workplace accidents. According to union leaders there were a number of factors contributing to the high mortality rate in dockyards.

“Work conditions in dockyards are very difficult,” said Hakkı Demiral from the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers Unions (DISK). “However, employers prefer young and inexperienced workers.”

Demiral added that more than 3,000 people worked in dockyards and said sometimes the heat went up to 50 degrees Celsius. Long shifts, along with the heat, lead to fatigue and a lack of attention. Most workers are paid TL 150 ($8) a day and don’t have social security.

“The workers come from villages. They don’t have any information about unions, which makes it easier for them to be exploited,” said Demiral.

A 19-year-old dockyard worker died on August 17 after falling from a height. The worker, Yasin Demirdağ, did not have a safety harness and a video circulating on social media showed a safety expert trying to fit him in a harness after he fell and died. The video sparked outrage as many argued that employers were more concerned with covering up their liability rather than ensuring their workers’ safety.

Demiral said the employer should be held accountable for the death and prosecuted for manslaughter.

After the accident, dockyard supervisors said they had warned Demirdağ  to wear the safety harness several times and that they had no responsibility for the accident. However, Demiral said this explanation was inadequate since the employer should have suspended or fired the worker who did not comply with safety regulations.

“The problem is not only that the worker was not wearing a harness,” added Demiral. “The scaffolding and ladders need to be more secure. There need to be additional safety measures, so even if the worker falls they have something protecting them other than a harness.”

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 died in an explosion in Manisa’s Soma district in May 2014.

The country ranked first in Europe in the number of fatal workplace accidents in 2018, with 1,541 work-related deaths, according to the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) and Turkey’s Social Security Institution (SGK) data.

A total of 28,380 people have died in workplace accidents in Turkey since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, according to an İSİG report released in November.

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