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Workplace Doctor

Workplace Doctor

An Evaluation on the Profession of Workplace Doctors;

In Turkey

an occupational accident occurs every 6 minutes.

One person becomes disabled every 180 minutes.

One person dies every 6 hours.

Every day;

210 occupational accidents occur,

4 persons die as a result of occupational accident,

6 persons becomes incapacitated as a result of occupational accident.

What does ‘occupational accident’ mean? There are various definitions. For example, occupational accident, according to International Labour Office (ILO) is; an unexpected and unplanned occurrence, which results in a particular damage or injury.

Whereas; according to World Health Organisation, an occupational accident is “an unplanned event commonly leading to personal injury, damage to machinery and working equipment, and temporary halt of production”.

As it may be seen, there are numerous definitions for occupational accident. It can generally be defined as “an unplanned event commonly leading to personal injury, damage to machinery and equipment or temporary halt of production, that arises out of unsafe acts and conditions, which endanger the lives of employees.” The most important element in the definition of occupational accident is occurrence of a sudden and unexpected event.

The following factors can be listed as the major causes of occupational accidents:

According to the statistics conducted by International Labour Office in 199 countries, the causes of occupational accidents can be categorised under three groups.

1 Unsafe Behaviours 79.5%

2 Unsafe Conditions 19.5%

3 Unknown 1%

This means that 99% of occupational accidents are based on human fault, whereas only 1% is based on CHANCE.

Below are some causes that increase the rate of accidents. Unsafe Behaviours:

Working irresponsibly without being assigned a task or paying attention to warnings,

Operating or using tools at dangerous speed,

Making safety devices inoperable,

Not observing safety rules in loading, lifting, placement, and similar activities.

Unsafe Conditions:

Inadequate guards or protection in machinery,

Defective or outdated tools and equipment,

Substandard housekeeping,

Inadequate illumination,

Improper or outdated personal protective equipment (working clothes, goggles, etc.),

Unsafe working methods,

Inadequate ventilation,

Workplace difficulties,

Being tired, sleepless,

Improper workplace temperature,

Long working hours

The Unsafe Behaviours and Unsafe Conditions that most frequently result in accidents are those that are attributable to human fault, and they are preventable. The most effective way to prevent human fault is to provide the necessary and adequate trainings. These trainings are provided jointly by workplace safety specialists and workplace doctors. However, since the Workplace Doctor and Workplace Safety are concepts that have not yet settled in our country,

occupational accidents could not be sufficiently reduced. The recent increase in occupational accidents and mass deaths which have caused intense opposition by the public in our country has forced the state to take the required pre-cautions for this purpose. Although it is evident that it is late for the state to take measures, it is a fact that this situation is no longer sustainable. Moreover, mass deaths occurring at occupational accidents at mines, construction sites have stimulated an intense public pressure.

If we should define ‘workplace doctor’; Workplace Doctor: is a doctor who is supposed to use his knowledge and skills, with full professional independence, for the purpose of protecting the employees from work-related health problems, preventing occupational diseases, accident-related injuries and disabilities, improving working conditions at the workplace, and improving the health, and health awareness of employees, and who continues his occupational activities at the workplace.

According to the applicable legislation in our country, the following can be listed amongst the Basic Duties of the Workplace Doctor:

1- Workplace Doctor’s Duty to Provide Guidance/Advice

To provide advice to the relevant employer regarding health monitoring of employees and surveillance of the working environment within the scope of occupational health and safety services.

2- Workplace Doctor’s Duty to Perform Risk Assessment

To participate in works and practices aimed at assessment of risks in respect of occupational health and safety, make recommendations to the employer regarding health and safety measures required to be taken as a result of risk assessment and follow up the same.

3- Health Monitoring Duty of the Workplace Doctor

To inform, and take the consent of, the employees regarding the tests and analyses required to be performed at the onset of employment, and periodically thereafter, within the scope of health monitoring.

4- Workplace Doctor’s Duty to Provide Training, Information and Keep Records

To perform work for planning the occupational health and safety trainings for employees in compliance with the applicable legislation, submit the same to the approval of the employer, implement and check the same.

5- Workplace Doctor’s Duty to Cooperate with the Relevant Units

To recommend that the necessary measurements should be made within the scope of surveillance of the working environment based on the results of health monitoring, and to evaluate the measurement results.

As revealed by the definition of workplace doctor and the causes of occupational accidents, workplace doctors have an important role in preventing occupational accidents. In other words, occupational accidents will be significantly reduced if the workplace doctors have efficient and effective functionality. In particular, training is the most effective factor. However, in practice, the employers have the tendency to see the workplace doctor as a prescription doctor. This causes different evaluations by the workplace doctor, by the employer and by the employee, and reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of the workplace doctor in preventing occupational accidents.

As is the case in any matter, training activities to be conducted under the cooperation of workplace doctors and the occupational safety specialists in working environments where human life is at high risk would be effective in preventing occupational accidents and occupational diseases and this would play a significant role in reducing the cost of occupational safety and thus the cost of production.

It is necessary to raise the level of responsiveness of workplace doctors and employers in prevention of occupational accidents. The employee and also employer trainings to be conducted at the workplace would both improve human health, and also increase the efficiency in in preserving human life. There is a fact known in the practice of medicine: measures aimed at protection of public health costs less than the measures aimed at curing diseases. Based on this, the cost of risk prevention efforts at workplaces would be lower than the cost that would be brought about by accidents that occur / will occur. As such, production would be made at lower cost both in terms of economy of the employer

and the economy of the country, and the employees would be caused to contribute to the production by working at healthier and safer environments.