Random health and safety checks on work places across North Cyprus has seen two thirds of inspected businesses fail to comply with legislation, prompting their temporary closure. Sixty-five work places were inspected during an eight-day period in the middle of February. Of these, 44 were found to have fallen foul of health and safety laws and were immediately closed by inspectors. Twenty-one firms were served enforcement notices requiring immediate action and of these, seven firms have complied and have since been permitted to re-open.
The week-long inspection followed a ‘emergency meeting’ chaired by the TRNC’s new Work and Social Pensions Minister Zeki Çeler. Within days of taking office, the minister had promised swift and robust action to counter work places accidents, particularly on construction sites.
On 5 Feb, Minister Çeler announced his vision was for “zero work-related deaths.” His statement came on the same day as a construction worker had been admitted to hospital fighting for his life after falling off a building site.
The incident followed a spate of works accidents, prompting the new Minister to call and chair an ‘emergency meeting’, which was attended by regional health and safety inspectors. They reported on the ongoing issues they faced, while the Minister outlined his priorities going forward. Following the meeting on Thursday 8 Feb., Minister Çeler told press that repeat offenders needed to understand they would face severe penalties over their health and safety failings.
The minister promised that, “the number of inspections for each sector would increase” primarily to ensure business owners are incorporating vital health and safety measures that will reduce the risk of injuries to staff and other visitors. Mr Çeler, who is from the left-wing Communal Democrat Party (TDP), also said his inspectors would be serving notices on those who did not comply with regulations governing working hours for staff, which is capped at 40 hours per week in the TRNC.
Firms who flout rules on their permitted operating times will also face fines and temporary closure orders. The problem is particularly acute in the construction sector, with members of the public regularly contacting ministry staff to complain about noise pollution from building sites on Sundays and outside other permitted working hours.
The new directive is backed by various trade bodies, including Cyprus Turkish Constructors’ Union, and the TRNC’s Chamber of Architects and Chamber of Civil Engineers. Representatives from these and other organisations were called to the Work and Social Pensions Ministry on Friday, 16 Feb. to be given an update on the latest inspections by Undersecretary Erçin Tekakpınar and Yusuf Önderol, head of the Department for Work.
Trade unions protested “avoidable” deaths in October, after 51 workers killed in past 7 years
The call for stricter work place controls comes in the wake of dozens of work-place accidents resulting in fatalities as well as life-changing injuries for workers. Between 2011 and 2017 fifty-one workers were killed, the vast majority of incidents occurring on building sites. Turkish Cypriot trade unions protested these “avoidable” deaths in October of last year, noting that seven workers had lost their lives in the first 10 months of 2017 alone.
The worrying trend has continued into 2018. On 13 January, Musa Düşkün died after losing his balance and falling off scaffolding while working on a new hotel in Karaoğlanoğlu, Girne, owned by the Kaya Hotel Group. The following week, 54-year-old mechanic Fikret Engin received serious leg injuries after losing control of machinery he was using in the bodyworks section at Hyundai Özok Ltd located on Haspolat Industrial Estate. On 5 Feb, Selim Alp, a 41-year-old construction worker, fell some 6 metres onto concrete while working on a construction site in Lapta. He remains in intensive care.