An occupational disease is any chronic ailment, temporary or permanent illness (physical or mental) that occurs as a result of work or occupational activity. It is an aspect of occupational safety and health.
Every year in Turkey, hundreds of people die because of occupational diseases, without being diagnosed. Turkish people are not adequately aware of occupational diseases. They can have severe consequences such as death or lifelong illhealth or injury. However studies conducted on occupational disease and the resources needed to access information about the subject in Turkey are far from sufficient.
“In Turkey we estimate 40 to 120 thousand cases of occupational disease every year, but the number of registered cases are only 433,” says Occupational Health and Safety Assistant General Director Dr. Rana Güven in a presentation given in 2012. This fact alone is enough to reveal the seriousness of the situation in Turkey.
Occupational disease is a process that can affect someone long term; it is not a momentary phenomenon as work accidents can be. Even if a person has worked in a workplace for 3-5 years and is exposed to the conditions that cause an occupational disease, he/she may not develop the disease until years later. When people do not have enough knowledge about occupational diseases, they may not identify their illness as such.
Why did we build the website www.meslekhastaligi.org?
In 2005textile workers in Turkey showing symptoms of lung disease were diagnosed with silicosis. This was the first time in the world that doctors realised textile workers could get silicosis. To date more than 100 workers lost their lives because of this disease.
Established in 2008, the Kot Kumlama İşçileri Dayanışma Komitesi (Denim Sandblasting Workers Solidarity Committee) achieved major success due to its hard work. In 2009, thanks to the Committee, sandblasting techniques were banned in Turkey, and silicosis was included in the public health law through a decision of the Council of Ministers. With new legal regulations in 2011, all silicosis patients , including those working informally were entitled to pensions.
During this struggle we realized how little awareness people in Turkey have about occupational diseases, and how inadequate information and resources are. Yet we know that occupational diseases can be avoided when proper measures are taken.
We also know that many lives can be saved by raising awareness on this subject. When relevant authorities, and above all else the workers, have sufficient knowledge about occupational disease and when employers and others concerned take the necessary precautions, occupational diseases can be prevented.
To raise awareness in this regard and to inform workers about the sectors and hazards they work in and with, we built the website www.meslekhastaligi.org. This website is open to anyone who is interested, and we welcomes everyone’s contribution.
We are convinced that occupational disease is not any workers’ destiny; it can be fully prevented when the necessary measures are taken.