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Worker electrocuted at building site in Phnom Penh

A 27-year-old construction worker died on Monday morning after being electrocuted on the job, local authorities said, an incident that once again called attention to the precarious working conditions in the construction industry.

Working on a building site in Toek Thla commune in Sen Sok district, labourer Kao Vichet died after receiving an electrical shock when his foot got caught on a live wire.

“He and three other workers were moving a metal bar when his foot got caught and pulled the wire . . . Water fell and caused an electrical shock and he was struck unconscious,” said commune police chief Sok Sophal, adding that the three other men escaped uninjured.

Vichet’s colleagues brought him to the Preah Kossamak Hospital where he later died, Sophal said, adding that the subcontractor who hired Vichet had paid compensation to his family.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour advocacy group Central, said the incident demonstrates the growing need for regulations to be put in place and adhered to by construction companies and subcontractors to ensure that working conditions on construction sites are safe.

“The construction industry suffers from two problems: a lack of regulations and also that the existing regulations aren’t working properly,” Tola said. “I don’t see a real commitment from the government to enforce the existing regulations.”

Over the past five years, the government put in place rules that require subcontractors to provide injury compensation for their labourers, but few companies abide by the rules, Tola noted.

“There needs to be responsibility from the main contractor and subcontractor, so they are responsible for work accidents and worker’s health,” he said, adding that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in.

But Leng Bunleng, Toek Thla commune clerk, said it was Vichet’s carelessness that led to his death. “He was careless, therefore he got shocked while the others could escape,” Bunleng said.

It remained unclear yesterday whether the construction site on which Vichet was working had proper permits.

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