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Campaign focused on reducing deaths

Amid a continually rising rate of industrial accidents and deaths, the Ministry of Labour introduced a campaign focused on identifying workplace hazards before tragedy strikes.

Since the ministry began keeping track of 960 Cambodian factories in 2009, workplace accidents have risen by nearly 375 per cent, reaching 16,775 incidents last year. Deaths from on-the-job injuries increased each year between 2009 and 2012, climbing from 16 to 59. Last year’s death toll fell to 56.

“The ministry has a plan to create 20 prakases related to workplace safety,” Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng said at yesterday’s launch of the Zero-Accident Campaign.

Zero-Accidents’ philosophy relies on training supervisors to find site-specific workplace and behavioural hazards before they become an issue, according to the website of the Japan International Center for Occupational Safety and Health, which founded Zero-Accidents.

The Labour Ministry will train employer and employee representatives from Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Kandal, Svay Rieng and Kampong Chhnang, said Leng Tong, director of the ministry’s occupational heath and safety department.

Regulations implemented under Zero-Accidents will run alongside existing ones under an International Labour Organization-supported Occupational Safety and Health Master Plan, ILO national project coordinator Tun Sophorn said.

The ILO plan – which ran from 2009 to 2013, and is in the process of renewal – should expand to high-risk workplaces and foster cooperation between several ministries to also address occupational diseases, Sophorn said. For example, workers ailing from disease resulting from handling asbestos should be covered under the National Social Security fund, and those now working with asbestos should be trained how to do so safely.

Both plans are theoretically beneficial, said Moen Tola, who heads the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center. But, he added, company management and the Labour Ministry inspectors rarely enforce either plan.

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