A ‘labor accident’ is never just an accident
Workers who died in the mine blast will be recorded in the statistics as “victims of labor accident.” It is a real tragedy for the victims and their friends and family, but for those who view the issues from a distance it is statistics.
As I was writing this column, the number of casualties was not yet confirmed. What makes my pain grow is not the fact that the number of the dead is high, but because this accident was one that could have been prevented.
When they mention such “occupational accidents” you can be sure that there is no such thing as an accident.
We have been listening to several statements from the authorities: “This happened, that happened, it was a firedamp explosion, fire broke out, they were poisoned by carbon monoxide, etc.” But everyone who is engaged with occupational health and safety issues knows that accidents in the workplace can be prevented. It is enough to draw lessons from past accidents, to perfect production processes, train workers and take engineering and administrative measures not to allow any “negligence.” If there is an accident despite all this, it is also possible to manage that crisis flawlessly and prevent casualties, as long as those whose duties are to provide the life safety of workers and protect their health exert efforts on the matter.
We now understand that there was nobody left who did not see that an accident was about to strike Soma. It has only been three weeks since the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a motion for research on the issue to Parliament - only to be rejected by the votes of the ruling party deputies.
The ruling party deputies who obstructed this motion did so based on what information? We know where they got it: The energy and natural resources minister visited this mine exactly nine months ago and described the pit as “an example mine” in terms of measures taken against accidents.
Now, the same minister is saying that whoever has any neglect will be punished. He is also saying, yes, this: “Starting with the coffins, we are working so that nothing is left undealt with.”
After such an incident, precisely the first person to resign should be himself. This is what political liability calls for: To undertake the political responsibility of the words he uttered nine months ago.
I reviewed the first statements after the accident and there was no word from the labor minister. He came out issuing statements 20 hours after the accident.
The institution that should check working conditions, security measures in the mine, follow these up, and secure that the production process is perfected in terms of the health of workers, is the Labor Ministry. We now know that they have also not fulfilled their duties. The labor minister should also resign. The political responsibility of those who are assigned to monitor the mine belongs to the minister.
However, we know that none of these will happen. The Cabinet ministers will continue to occupy their seats.
In Korea, after the ferryboat accident, the prime minister resigned because of complications in the rescue work.
Here, in our country, everybody will keep their posts. The Office of the Public Prosecutor will of course launch an investigation. We know in advance what the outcome will be: Who has ever been punished in past mine accidents because of their negligence? Why will those responsible in this accident be punished?
After a while, we will forget it. Until the next labor massacre. We will listen to same speeches: “There was an occupational accident, those responsible will be called to account. May the victims rest in peace.”