21 April 2021
NGOs and Occupational Accidents
While the associations ensure that their work is carried out in compliance with the legislation, they must fulfil not only their obligations under legislation of the associations, but also the obligations under other legislations to which the activities of the association are subjected. Associations are organizations that carry out voluntary activities. However, associations may recruit paid employees in areas that do not have the opportunity to provide services on a voluntary basis or are not preferred. In these cases, associations shall be considered as employers under the Labor Law No. 4857 ("LL"). Associations with the title of employer shall be responsible if their employees are exposed to an occupational accident.
What is an Occupational Accident?
Occupational accidents are defined within the scope of the limited cases under Social Security Law No.5510 (“Law”). Accordingly, accidents are considered as an occupational accident when:
- the insurance holder is at the workplace,
- accidents that occur due to the work carried out by the employer,
- an insurance holder working under an employer is exposed, at times when he/she is not carrying out his/her main work due to the reason that he/she is sent on duty to another place out of the workplace,
- a nursing female insurance holder is exposed, at times allocated for nursing her child as per labour legislation,
- insurance holder is going to or coming from the place, where the work is carried out, on a vehicle provided by the employer,
and which causes, immediate or delayed, physical or mental handicap in the insurance holder.
- Accident while in shuttle during transportation of an employee employed in the head quarter;
- Suffering from a disorder such as falling down a ladder, spilling hot water, electrocuting or heart attack while working at the association’s head quarter;
- Being battered during field activities, slipping on wet ground or falling ill
shall be considered as an occupational accident.
Precautions Against Work Accidents
Associations are obligated to take the necessary precautions to prevent occupational accidents during their activities. Obligations to reduce occupational risk factors in the workplace and measures to be taken in this context are regulated in the Occupational Health and Safety Law ("OHSL"). While some of the measures vary according to the hazard class of the workplace, some precautions must be taken by all workplaces. In accordance with the Turkish Civil Code and the Law on Associations, taking these precautions shall be the responsibility of the board of directors of the associations.
You can access our article here in which we discuss the responsibilities of associations within the scope of OHSL.
You can access our article here in which we compile the steps to be taken by the employer after an occupational accident.
Does the Extent of The Employer's Defect Matter?
Within the scope of the definition made in the Law, whether the employer is defective in the case to which the insured is exposed is not a factor in the evaluation of the incident as an occupational accident. Although the employer has taken all precautions, he shall be responsible for the occupational accident that occurred. The measures taken by the employer shall affect the amounts of compensation that may be claimed by the employee (or their relatives) as a result of the occupational accident and the scope of the criminal sanctions to be applied against the employer's officials.
If the legal measures envisaged for the prevention of occupational accidents are not taken, the degree of defects of non-governmental organizations and their officials, and therefore the sanctions they may be subject to, shall increase.
Volunteers and Occupational Accidents
Under the Law, when defining occupational accidents, the scope has been narrowed in terms of accidents and only the accidents suffered by the insurance holder employees are considered as work accidents. The legislation does not regulate the accidents that volunteers are subjected to during NGO activities. However, the board of directors of the association may also be held responsible for the accidents that volunteers are suffered to while carrying out the activities of the association.
Since NGOs have the title of employer in terms of their employees, they are obligated to take the necessary measures regarding occupational health and safety. However, if the situations listed in the Law occur to the NGO employee, it shall be considered as an occupational accident. The NGO board of directors is responsible for the steps to be taken after the occupational accident and the measures to be taken regarding occupational health and safety. In the branch, representative or direct activity offices of INGOs operating in Turkey, the responsibility shall be with the representative assigned to the relevant unit.
Failure to fulfil obligations regarding occupational health and safety or occupational accident may be the subject of criminal proceedings along with administrative sanctions. These sanctions may be applied in the form of administrative fines, discontinuation of work in the workplace or imprisonment of the employer or employer representatives due to their responsibilities in the relevant accident.