At least 26,407 workers have died in occupational accidents in Turkey since 2002, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government came to power, with 2,427 of them losing their lives in 2020, the Birgün daily reported on Wednesday, citing data from Turkey’s Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG).
While most of the deaths occurred in agricultural and construction workplaces until 2020, the people who died last year were primarily office personnel, healthcare workers and transportation sector workers, occupations severely affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the country in March.
Among the workers who died in the country in occupational accidents in 2020 were 22 children under the age of 14, 46 youngsters between the ages of 15 and 17, 258 people between the ages of 18 and 27, 1,079 workers between the ages of 28 and 50, 708 between the ages of 51 and 64 and 159 people aged 65 and over.
At least 823 workers, 345 of them healthcare workers, died of COVID-19 last year due to the AKP government’s poor handling of the pandemic, Birgün said.
The AKP attracted criticism for failing to report the COVID-19 cases accurately as it made public only the comparatively small number of COVID-19 “patients” with symptoms, excluding people with no symptoms and who didn’t require hospitalization, from July to the end of November.
The reporting of all coronavirus cases in Turkey, which numbered some 30,000 a day at the time, caused the country to become one of the hardest-hit countries in the world in December 2020.
Turkey’s Health Ministry has repeatedly disregarded healthcare workers’ demand that they recognize COVID-19 as an occupational disease, so that the workers can access medical services free of charge and receive compensation if they are temporarily or permanently unable to work. Their family members would also be paid a monthly pension in the event of their death.
Bedri Tekin, a board member of the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB) and an occupational health and safety specialist, said worker deaths in Turkey are a problem for the middle and lower classes.
“In order to prevent worker deaths, workers in Turkey should organize more. Workplaces must be inspected regularly and employers must be punished for the worker deaths,” Tekin said.
Turkey, where workplace accidents are nearly a daily occurrence, has been suffering from low work safety standards for decades.