Recent Developments on the Occupational Health and Safety Obligations in Turkey
During the normalization steps are taken in all areas which have been under the effect of COVID-19, we would like to briefly explain the obligations of the employers determined by the legislation on occupational health and safety rules.
As it is known, employers have imposed some obligations to ensure occupational health and safety by the Occupational Health and Safety Law (“Law”) dated June 20, 2012, and numbered 6331. Some of these obligations; Article 6 of the Law titled “Occupational Health and Safety Services” and Article 7 titled “Supporting Occupational Health and Safety Services” will become into force by 1 July 2020 for workplaces that have less than 50 employees and deemed less hazardous workplaces by the Law. There is no postponement regarding the above-mentioned obligations has been declared by the Occupational Health and General Directorate at the time being.
The obligations of the employer regulated in Articles 6 and 7 of the Law, which will come into force on 1 July 2020, in particular the obligation to appoint occupational safety specialist and occupational physician, are briefly as follows:
Employers should assign occupational safety specialists and occupational physicians among their employees to provide occupational health and safety services and efforts for the prevention and protection of occupational risks. In the absence of employees with the specified qualifications among the employees, the employer will be able to perform all or part of this service by receiving it from the common health and safety units. However, if the employer has the required qualifications and required documents, it can undertake the fulfillment of this service by taking into consideration of the danger of the workplace and the number of employees. Workplaces that do not have the required qualifications and the required documents but have fewer than 50 employees and are not deemed hazardous workplace, will be able to carry out occupational health and safety services, except for recruitment and periodic examinations and inspections, provided that they complete the training announced by the Ministry.
In this context, employers will be obliged to meet all necessary needs such as tools, equipment, space and time, and to provide cooperation and coordination among those carrying out health and safety services in the workplace in order to fulfill their duties.
Employers will be obliged to fulfill the measures that are in compliance with the legislation on occupational health and safety and reported in writing by the person they are assigned or by the institutions and organizations which are the occupational health and safety service provider to the employer.
Employers will be obliged to inform the people they employ or the institutions they receive the services, the employees who come to their workplace to work from other workplaces, and their employers about the issues that are known to affect or possibly affect their health and safety.
As the COVID-19 cases have been decreasing, normalization steps have been slowly taken in Turkey and many businesses have started their activities again. In addition to the measures to be taken under the Law, new measures have been introduced by the administrative authorities within the scope of COVID-19 pandemic disease. For this reason, employers should also pay attention to the topics below during the days of the COVID-19 pandemic:
It is necessary to determine the specific hazards to the workplace related to COVID-19 and to make a separate risk assessment or update the current risk assessment.
While conducting a risk assessment, it is appropriate to consider the following basic principles in determining hazards, risks and measures to be taken:
An assessment must be made on where and how the employees may be exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Employees at high risk need to be identified due to the nature of the work in the workplace.
Business processes and ways of working should be re-planned as a result of the assessment.
It is necessary to make plans such as working remotely, alternating work, and organization of working time in order to keep the number of employees at the workplace at a minimum level.
In order to reduce the spreading risk of the virus, it is necessary to identify measures to increase social distance, especially in the dining hall and resting areas.
It is necessary to determine the individual risk factors of employees (e.g. employees with chronic conditions and those who require special policies such as pregnant employees) and to evaluate the necessary measures to protect these employees.
Basic measures to be taken to prevent infection need to be identified.
Policies and procedures need to be determined for the identification and isolation of infected people.
A sufficient number of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be planned to be provided to protect against the COVID-19 virus to be given to employees in the workplace.
In the Emergency Plan prepared in accordance with Law No. 6331, preventive and limiting measures to be taken against epidemic diseases should be updated regarding COVID-19 and put into practice in terms of these measures. Employee representatives and/or employees should be informed about the updated emergency plan and be made aware of what they should or should not do within the plan.
Employees and/or their representatives should be asked about the precautions taken against COVID-19 pandemic infection in the workplace (following the social distance rule or remote communication tools, etc.) and their participation in the discussions on these issues should be ensured.
Article contact: Bilge Derinbay / E-mail: email@example.com