TODAYSZAMAN.COM – Gov’t pledges to improve safety standards at mines

Gov’t pledges to improve safety standards at minesDraft legislation to regulate Turkey’s mines, which will grant expanded rights to miners and abolish subcontracting in the mining industry, has been put on Parliament’s agenda in the wake of a mining catastrophe in the Soma district that claimed 301 lives on May 13. Speaking to reporters on Friday, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) parliamentary group deputy chairman Nurettin Canikli said that the subcontracting system will be reformed — and prohibited for mining companies.

Canikli said that, excluding peripheral services and technology-related agencies, subcontracting will be banned in state institutions.Since the AK Party came to power in 2002, the number of temporary laborers (“taIeron” in Turkish) has increased sevenfold, opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Umut Oran said in a written statement last week.

In 2002, 358,000 temporary laborers were employed in Turkey, while the number today has reached 25 million, said Oran, adding that 11 million of these workers were employed in the public sector by local municipalities.The taIeron question has recently been debated and many segments of society have demanded that the government outlaw the practice.

Many of those killed in the Soma mine disaster were temporary laborers.Mines remain among the most dangerous workplaces in Turkey, especially for temporary workers, who are mostly inexperienced in their specific jobs.

The taIeron system, which places unskilled workers in dangerous jobs, denies workers rightful compensation for job loss and workplace accidents and insulates companies from liability when accidents occur According to the new legislation, almost 100,000 temporary laborers working in state institutions will be hired as full-time civil servants. [ArabaIlIk] Miners’ work week 18 hours shorter The draft legislation reduces miners’ underground work week from 48 to 30 hours, lowers the age of retirement for miners from 55 to 50 and extends paid vacation.

 Canikli also maintained that if miners are killed in accidents, their families will have the right to a survivor’s pension — even families of miners who worked only one day. It is stated in the draft legislation that one relative of each miner who lost his life in the Soma mine accident will get a government job.

If a coal mine is closed due to safety concerns, mining companies will have to continue paying miners, and workers at the Soma coal mine will receive an extra wage from the state until the mine is reopened. [ArabaIlIk] Compulsory refuge chambers in mines Up-to-date technology, including robots and refuge chambers, will be compulsory in all mines, anikli said, adding that the inspectors will shut down any mines that are found to be noncompliant.

 According to mine safety experts, workers trapped in the Soma mine could have survived for an extended period of time if the mine had been equipped with refuge chambers, which are commonly used in other countries.Refuge chambers greatly increase miners’ chances of surviving accidents, even explosions, fires or the release of hazardous gases.

Thirty-three Chilean miners rescued in 2010 after being trapped underground for 69 days had escaped to a refuge chamber after the roof of a copper and gold mine in Chile collapsed. With Soma’s death toll of 301 making it one of the world’s worst mining accidents in recent memory, Turkey’s failure to ratify the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 1995 Safety and Health in Mines Convention raised questions in the minds of many about whether the country had  had neglected its responsibilities to its people.

The convention imposes strict requirements on mining companies and governments. The convention has so far been signed by 28 countries around the world, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Armenia, Albania, Lebanon, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The convention stipulates employers must take all the necessary measures to eliminate or minimize the risks to safety and health in mines under their control take measures and precautions appropriate to the nature of a mine operation to prevent, detect and combat the start and spread of fires and explosions and ensure that when there is serious danger to the safety and health of workers, operations are stopped and workers are evacuated to a safe location.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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