Social Policies for the Risk Groups at Small and Medium Scale Enterprises

by Senay Gökbayrak / Research Assistant in the Ankara University-Department of Labour Economics and Industrial Relations;

Volunteer in Fisek Institute-Science and Action Foundation for Child Labour
The article was presented at the II. International Occupational Health & Safety Regional Conference (October 9-11, 2002) on “Occupational Health and Safety at Small and Medium Scale Enterprises”

Under the working life conditions, there are important risk groups that are likely to come across with various risks due to physiological, psychological and socio-economic reasons; and they should be given a special importance. The generally accepted approach in regard to the risk groups is taking children, women, aged and disabled people into consideration. Although this classification is commonly accepted, it is also significant to reveal various other risk groups in the social life with a wider perspective (beside the ones above that should be under protection before all else) and consider the social policies developed for these groups on that ground and in an integral way. Because, among the fundamental principles of occupational health and safety, working and life conditions are inseparable. For example, there can be made a classification for risk groups on the basis of employment forms (typical labourers, home-based labourers), of sectors (agriculture, mining, and construction workers), of social security issues (labourers in formal or informal sector, in agriculture, seasonal labourers), and etc.

Such an approach discloses the fact that the protective measures oriented towards the risk groups should not be bounded by a workplace, if it does, it becomes meaningless. Even if formation of a healthy and safe working environment for disabled people is proper, it is not sufficient enough. If a disabled person is left no choice but overcoming the obstacles out of a workplace, and being under various stresses and risks in the social life, all the implications protecting this person under working conditions would turn out to be nothing. Besides, the burden of diseases and/or accidents came across out of the working life would be carried to a workplace. Here is another example showing the necessity of integral approaches in regard to the social policies oriented towards the risk groups: Protective arrangements and implications for child labourers at workplaces can only be beneficial for the short term. For the social policies regarding the child labourers in the working life conditions, reducing or eliminating the factors that force children to work during the significant phase of their social and psychological development should be a prior objective. With respect to the long-term policies oriented towards children as a risk group, the socio-economic factors such as combat with poverty, reducing the gap between the level of incomes, family planning, improving the educational facilities qualitatively and quantitatively, and etc. should be born in mind. Furthermore, these policies should be in accordance and integrity with the protective arrangements for the child labourers at workplaces. While risk groups-oriented social policies cover protective arrangements for the short-term, for the long-term, they should include arrangements regarding the social and economic life and for the elimination of the factors that lead us to consider these groups as risk groups.

The first step in the formation of social policies in regard to the risk groups is putting forth the risk management process for consideration. Risk management process is composed of all the necessary preventive steps in order to reduce the risk level. And the most important characteristic of risk management process is priority processing

Human life is a whole. This wholeness brings about the fact that the protective arrangements for the risk groups should not only limited with the boundaries of a workplace and its close environs. It is also superficial and impossible. For this reason, all the workplace-based protective arrangements should be in complete accordance and integrity with the social policies regarding these groups in the social and economic life.