Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Construction sector unaware of asbestos risks

Construction sector unaware of asbestos risks

Construction sector unaware of asbestos risks

While the Ministry of Labour held a workshop last Friday to highlight the presence of asbestos in products, especially building materials, many construction companies and workers are unaware of the toxic substance and its potential health hazards.

Sok Kin, active president of the Building and Wood Worker Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, who attended the workshop last week, said that up to 80 per cent of the Kingdom’s construction workers could be exposed to asbestos given the range of materials being imported into the country containing the toxic substance.

“We don’t have enough experience to work on that, because it seems to be a new thing in Cambodia, I just learn about it two months ago” he said.

“We need to set up policy and regulate to control the import of products.”

He added that his union has been working in collaboration with the Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA), an organisation working for worker health, safety and rights, on educating construction workers and getting them to wear masks in the workplace.

The Ministry of Labour and APHEDA held a workshop last Friday to discuss the use of asbestos-containing products in Cambodia and the potential health hazards it poses.

According to the latest available data from Cambodia’s import inspection authority, CAMCONTROL, the import of construction materials – ranging from roofing sheets to gypsum boards – containing asbestos has steadily increased from 14,257 tonnes in 2005 to 63,124 tonnes in 2012.

“We know that asbestos affected to the health, it can cause to the lung cancer” he said.

“The Ministry of Environment will take action on this case and should have more of an understanding about it,” Lim Thearith, an official from CAMCONTROL said yesterday.

Despite the warnings, it is not just workers who are unaware of asbestos-containing materials.

Many firms working in the construction industry told the Post that they too were unaware of the potentially lethal substance.

Trou Chanthan, director of architecture and design firm Komnit Design, said he was unaware of the use of asbestos in construction materials, but that there was an increase in the industry of the use of roof tiles and cement panels as compared to corrugated roof sheeting, which can sometimes contain asbestos.

“I did not know about asbestos. Most of my villa designs use roof tile and smart board” he said.

Song Bun Hak, owner of Song Bun Hak gypsum shop, who also installs the panels, said that gypsum boards, which have been known to have asbestos, are increasingly being used for interior design in houses, offices and
factories.

Having worked with the product for 20 years, Hak said he was unaware of the health risks associated with asbestos, but has had no health worries so far.

“If government banned this product, it will impact clients’ demand for the product, as well as my family’s income too” he said.

According to Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng, there was no available data on the scope of asbestos use and how many people it has affected in Cambodia.

But, UN trade statistics show that the import of asbestos-containing products to Cambodia had more than tripled in recent years, from $1.3 million in 2009 to just over $4 million in 2013.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of