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Evaluation of Covid-19 as an Occupational Disease

ADEM BURAK YILMAZ
Evaluation of Covid-19 as an Occupational Disease

Assessment of Covid-19 as a Workplace Sickness

While the application to the Social Security Institution (SGK) for the acceptance of Covid-19 with an occupational disease resulted in an objection at the first examination, the rejected objection penalty was again appealed to the Social Insurance High Health Board by the Izmir Medical Association. As a result, the SSI (SGK) made a precedent decision considering that the death that occurred in Covid-19 is an occupational disease. The decision made in this context is as follows,

Primarily the definition of occupational diseases:

According to the 14th article of the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Law No. 5510, “Occupational disease is the temporary or permanent illness, physical or mental disability that the insured suffers due to a recurring reason or the conditions of the work execution.

In the doctrine, it is defined as the mental and physical damage resulting from external and repetitive reasons while working under the employer’s orders and instructions.

In this context, there must be a causal link between the workplace and work conditions, and the disease to be considered an occupational disease.

In Article 3 of the Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331, occupational disease is defined as follows: “Disease caused by exposure to occupational risks.

If we look at the definitions in both laws and doctrines, it is clear that the person is contracted the disease due to their professional activities.

While this is the case, during the Covid-19 pandemic, medical staff intensely exposed to the virus by taking care of Covid-19 patients, examining, taking part in the treatment process, contacting at work, and continuing to work even during the lockdown processes. For this reason, it is an appropriate decision to accept Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

World Health Organization guidance on occupational health and safety:

“It is among the rights of health workers that employers and managers of health institutions consult healthcare workers on occupational health and safety issues and inform occupational health and safety experts about occupational diseases. Providing compensation, rehabilitation, and treatment of a health worker who suffers from it, are among the rights of a health worker. Such a situation counts as occupational exposure, and the resulting disease is considered an occupational disease.”

Turkey’s considering the Covid-19 disease as an occupational disease decision is very appropriate, as in Italy, Germany, Belgium, the United States, and Canada.

It should be considered that healthcare workers renounce taking leaves, work continuously under current conditions and work at a more intensive pace than ordinary conditions to carry out health services due to the pandemic.

The link of causality is also an obvious result of intense contact with Covid-19 since healthcare workers do not take leave, continue to work during the lockdowns, take care of Covid-19 patients personally, and provide services to these patients. While the causal link is obvious, it is also necessary to admit a causal link without showing any evidence.

As a result of the reasons explained, the decision made by the SSI to consider Covid-19 an occupational disease is proper. However, it should be noted the legal procedure to consider Covid-19 as an occupational disease for healthcare workers should be clarified without questioning the causal link and the need for evidence.


Article Keywords: Evaluation of Covid-19, Evaluation of Covid-19 as an Occupational Disease, Covid-19, Occupational Disease, Social Security Institution, High Health Board, Izmir Medical Association, Evaluation of Covid-19 as a Workplace Sickness.

Here is an article that might interest you for further reading: HIV Infected Person’s Responsibility in Terms of Criminal Law.


Notes:

  • [1] EREN, S. 23; TUNCAY, S. 153.
  • [2] <https://ww1.issa.int/news/can-covid-19-be-considered-occupational-disease>