How would you feel when your job is to work at a height of 120 metres from the ground? Would you be comfortable with it?
A 27-year-old, Phem Minea, has been working as an antenna climber since the age of 21. He lives in Kian Svay District, Kandal Province district.
“If you can do it, you will be at peace with the blissful view of nature from up here,” he said.
Phem Minea left school when he was only in grade-six. As he is poorly educated, he decided to join the labour force, which brought him to an antenna making group. However, he was not happy with what he was doing.
“The first time I climbed, I was so frightened because it was very high and located on a mountain. The new antenna has no stairs in the middle, so I had to climb up from behind [the pillar of the antenna].”
Working as an antenna maker does not require any studies in technology, but Minea must be quick to follow the directions of his superior, he said – or it could mean his life.
His daily work is to install antennae for mobile companies and to clean up the mess caused by dead birds. He wears only one single safety belt.
“One safety belt has always been enough for me and I am not afraid, because technology these days is very modern,” he said. “They put something on the ground to prevent lightning strikes. Even though the pillar of the antenna is strong, we do get nervous sometimes when the wind blows.”
Despite the fact that he does not care about the lightning or the broken pillar, his work is not easy – especially during the rainy season.
“When it rains, the iron is slippery. Although you have a safety belt, you still have a chance to fall and be crushed by the antenna. Another risk is when you work with iron, you can fall down.”
During his six years working as an antenna climber, Phem Minea witnessed the death of his teammate and the crippling injury of another.
His eyes started to tear when he said, “One of my teammates died because he was not careful enough and another one still cannot walk. He was my cousin, and he died immediately after the pillar of a pulling vehicle got broken and he was crushed by the antenna.”
Despite the tragic death of his teammates, there was no response from their group, he said.
“Some companies care about their employees, but my company did not,” he explained.
The death of his cousin propelled Minea to seek work with a better company. Now, he is insured by his employer and the working conditions are generally safer.
“I won’t stop this kind of work,” he said. “I can’t find another type of work.”
Today, Minea works for Hang Meas HDTV and looks forward to greater benefits in the future.