Turkey’s mining labor safety laws more advanced than ILO’s rules: Labor minister

Turkey’s mining labor safety laws more advanced than ILO’s rules: Labor minister

Turkey’s mining labor safety laws more advanced than ILO’s rules: Labor minister

A coal miner prepares to put on his headlight for search and rescue operation after a mining disaster in Soma. REUTERS Photo

Turkey’s law on mining labor safety are more advanced than the requirements  proposed by the International Labor Organization (ILO), much-maligned Labor Minister Faruk Çelik has argued in response to criticism about the inefficient inspection of mines, a week after at least 301 workers were killed in Soma.

“What some say is, ‘We have a law [on labor safety] but we need [some regulations for] the ILO.’ The law we passed is more advanced than the ILO’s [regulations]. This law on labor safety in mines is in full compatibility with the European Union,” Çelik said in an address to Parliament during a debate on the establishment of an investigation committee about the Soma accident.

The law Çelik referred to was approved in 2012 with the purpose of harmonizing national labor safety standards with those of the EU.      

The government was under criticism for not ratifying Convention No. 176 of the ILO from 1995 that aims to prevent any fatalities, injuries or ill health affecting workers or members of the public, including damage to the environment arising from mining operations. The convention delegates responsibility to governments and the owners of mines with regard to health and safety.

“This convention was ratified by only 28 countries, including 12 European countries,” Çelik said.
“I want to express one of the points I feel sorry about, and this is valid for all sectors, I want to ask why the importance given to tabloid news is not given to work safety,” he said.  

Responding to criticisms that the Soma mine had not been properly inspected, Çelik said a new regulation of mine inspection was put in place in 2010 that leads to inspections on the country’s 160 mines twice a year. The mine in Soma has been subjected to eight regular inspections and another eight upon complaints since 2010, he said, adding that the company operating the mine was observed to have corrected its shortcomings found in the inspections.

“Who is conducting these inspections? Mine engineers and other labor safety inspectors. The inspection is an instantaneous thing. Evaluations are made on technical indicators or sensors and deficiencies are reported if they breach the requirements. But mines are living organisms. You cannot predict what will happen one month later, one week after or even one hour after the inspections. That’s why our law stipulates recruiting labor safety experts and doctors at the workplace in addition to mine engineers,” Çelik said.

Prosecutors seized all of the documents issued by these workplace experts for the Soma mine and are analyzing them to clarify whether there was negligence, Çelik said, adding Turkey had some structural problems with regard to work safety in the mines.

Meanwhile, the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) has filed censure motions against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız and Labor and Social Security Minister Çelik due to their failure concerning the Soma disaster.