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Cooperation to Improve Health and Safety in the Turkish Mining Industry

The Turkish Ministry of Mines, Raw Materials and Energy, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in Geneva and the International Section of the ISSA for Safety and Health in Mining (ISSA Mining) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Ankara, agreeing to cooperate closely to improve occupational safety in the Turkish mining industry.

Dipl.-Ing. Helmut Ehnes,
Generalsekräter der International Section on Prevention in the Mining Industry (ISSA Mining), Bochum, und Leiter Prävention der Berufsgenossenschaft Rohstoffe und chemische Industrie (BG RCI), Langenhagen

Fig. 1. Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding at the Turkish Ministry of Mines, Raw Materials and Energy. Bild 1. Unterzeichnung des Memorandums of Understanding im türkischen Ministerium für Bergbau, Rohstoffe und Energie. Source / Quelle: ISSA Mining

Fig. 1. Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding at the Turkish Ministry of Mines, Raw Materials and Energy. // Bild 1. Unterzeichnung des Memorandums of Understanding im türkischen Ministerium für Bergbau, Rohstoffe und Energie. Source / Quelle: ISSA Mining

As part of the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which took place on 16 April 2015 in Ankara in the Ministry, representatives of the new tripartite alliance confirmed their willingness to make joint efforts to achieve progress in the areas of occupational health and safety in the Turkish mining industry and to draw lessons from the recent serious mining accidents.

As a representative of the Turkish Energy Ministry, Deputy State Secretary Dr. Nevzat Kavakli, who is in charge of mining, reiterated for the Turkish government that Turkey has the firm will to improve the safety situation in the mining industry in Turkey after the recent mining accidents, especially after the accident in the underground lignite mine on 13 May 2014 in Soma Eynez in the western province of Manisa, Turkey, with 301 dead miners. Particular attention is being paid to the underground mines, but the cooperation is to include all mining sectors. As a result of the devastating disaster in Soma, the Turkish government has already taken a number of legislative measures to ensure safety in the mining industry and to compensate accident victims and survivors. It has also introduced personnel measures to improve monitoring and advising of mining operations. The decision was made in favour of cooperation with ISSA and ISSA Mining, because it is now possible to look back on several years of successful joint work with the Turkish coal company TTK, and remarkable progress has already been achieved in many areas there. In this respect, the Turkish government is pleased to have found competent partners in ISSA and ISSA Mining and is firmly convinced that they will be able to achieve more success in the joint work together characterised by partnership and trust.

The President of ISSA – Section Mining (ISSA Mining), Theodor Bülhoff, first thanked Dr. Kavakli in his reply for the previous trustful cooperation as well as for the renewed vote of confidence. Bülhoff stressed that ISSA Mining also sees good chances of success for the cooperation project now agreed. As an international non-profit organisation, ISSA Mining has the requisite independence to objectively attract the best experts and propose appropriate solutions for the specific Turkish requirements. From the global ISSA Mining network, it is possible to rely on international experts and also have excellent contacts with renowned suppliers and mining companies from Germany, making it possible to draw on their expertise. Bülhoff stressed that the agreement with a term of three years provides the necessary platform for the desired success in the interest of Turkish miners and their families.

In the following Helmut Ehnes, the Secretary General of the Mining Section, explained that within the framework of the cooperation agreement not only an alliance of two has been concluded, but that it was also fortunate that the full support of ISSA Headquarters in Geneva could be depended on. For example, Ehnes received the authorisation of the ISSA Secretary General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky to sign the MoU on behalf of the International Social Security Association. In this respect, the signing of the memorandum constitutes a premiere. For the first time, the overall organisation of ISSA is supporting the efforts of one of its sections in this form and founding a tripartite alliance. This makes it clear the significant importance the ISSA attributes to the project, so one can expect to achieve good results with the necessary tailwind from Geneva.
A series of lectures followed the welcoming speeches. First Helmut Ehnes explained the structure of ISSA, its sections for prevention in the workplace, and the goals, structure and operation of the mining section. He then presented the new global prevention strategy for safety in mining “Vision Zero”, which is characterised by the conviction that it is possible to prevent all fatal and serious accidents through appropriate preventive measures. To achieve this ambitious goal on the company level, the mining section has now developed an operational prevention program that encompasses seven so-called “Golden Rules”. Positive examples demonstrate that the goal of Vision Zero is attainable if the measures of the seven Golden Rules are applied consistently (1).

Following that, representatives of the Ministry of Mines explained the current state of mining legislation in Turkey, which is based essentially on the relevant ILO conventions. In 2012 the Labour Protection Act was modernised so that it now requires proactive preventative measures from all companies based on a risk-based analysis of the working conditions. As a result of a number of serious mining accidents, the requirements for the deployment of specialists in occupational safety have been increasingly strengthened, and the options for sanctions by the supervisory bodies have been expanded. After the Soma mining disaster, further legislative measures were taken to improve occupational safety, and compensation of those affected was also initiated. The new preventive requirements include consistent planning and documentation of all safety-relevant factors before commissioning, the use of personal respiratory protection, fire and explosion protection, and artificial ventilation underground. Granting the authority to inspect the mines for unsafe conditions to the insurance designated for the compensation is also being considered.

Subsequently, the Turkish side provided insight into the current state of inspection and monitoring activities of the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Labour. To make the additional consulting expertise available to the companies in the context of monitoring, there are plans for some 700 underground mining operations to employ an additional 100 inspectors with many years of industry experience.

Following the informative lectures, the signing ceremony of the memorandum was completed. To start with the implementation of the agreement as quickly as possible and to arrive at practical activities, representatives of the mining companies and the government first had the opportunity to mention their personal expectations and ideas. As part of this “brainstorming”, a number of ideas were named to tackle existing deficits.

In many contributions, there was talk that it would be necessary to improve awareness and knowledge of occupational safety and health among entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. It has been proposed under the umbrella of the MoU to develop an intelligent training concept with which it would be possible to achieve the necessary broad impact. In addition, the inadequate level of training of miners in Turkey and the lack of continuing education were addressed. It must be possible to establish a better safety culture and better safety awareness. Many mine operators were not vigilant enough when there were no accidents in their area of responsibility over an extended period. Training and raising awareness on a daily basis should be intensified. According to a representative of the newly formed Mining Association, many deficits could be avoided if all safety scenarios were considered carefully during planning of the mines. There are also deficits in the analysis and evaluation of accident events and the meaningfulness of accident statistics. The introduction of effective occupational safety and emergency management systems was also suggested. There was criticism of legal provisions which could not be implemented in practice. Reference was made to the special problems of small and medium-sized enterprises. The General Director of TTK, Burhan Inan, pointed out that they also have had the experience in the current cooperation project with ISSA Mining that better occupational safety and better economic results depend on each other and are not contradictory.

In addition to these fundamental issues, the representatives of course called for a variety of technical fields of action which would be possible to tackle together. Subjects that were particularly emphasised again and again included self-ignition, mine gas reduction, expansion techniques, prevention of water ingress, planning of mines, explosion protection, organisation of rescue measures and first aid, use of appropriate PPE, dust control, sensors and early warning systems, artificial ventilation and air conditioning, and the problems of deeper mines.

Following the discussion, the representatives of ISSA Mining expressed thanks for the particular openness of the participants and provided a first assessment of the many topics mentioned. It was apparent that the expectations were largely met in the list of topics in the MoU, because many of the desired topics are included there. Some key activities had already emerged, which were outlined by General Secretary Helmut Ehnes:

  • Measures for the establishment of the Vision Zero strategy and the seven Golden Rules in the Turkish mining industry;
  • educational and motivational measures for the target groups
    • entrepreneurs, management and executives,
    • operational experts for safety-relevant mining issues,
    • education and training of miners and operational instruction and motivation,
    • inspectors and external consultants;
  • risk assessment and planning as well as practical occupational safety and emergency management systems;
  • addressing of key safety-relevant topics.

In the discussion that followed, Matthias Stenzel, senior expert of ISSA Mining, mentioned considering the construction of a mining training centre over the medium term. His proposal was supported by the Turkish experts. Ehnes concluded by stressing the crucial nature of how the mining operations could be reached across the board. In this respect, it is not individual activities that are needed; instead, it is necessary to consider from the outset how to proceed in order to achieve this goal. Also, one should fully involve the social partners in order to take advantage of the social dialogue on the company level for the benefit of the desired widespread impact.

The next step now is the appointment of the Steering Committee, which is to control and support the measures. As part of the first meeting of the project board, it would be possible to consider holding a hearing of other representatives of the mining industry in order to get more input from the industry concerned.

References / Quellenverzeichnis

References / Quellenverzeichnis

(1) Ehnes, H.: Safety 7.0 – 7 Golden Rules to Vision Zero. Mining Report Glückauf (2015) Heft 1, S. 19 – 27

Dipl.-Ing. Helmut Ehnes,
Generalsekräter der International Section on Prevention in the Mining Industry (ISSA Mining), Bochum, und Leiter Prävention der Berufsgenossenschaft Rohstoffe und chemische Industrie (BG RCI), Langenhagen