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Construction occupational hazards policy under review

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Construction workers on duty at a building site in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in October last year. Hong Menea

Construction occupational hazards policy under review

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and a number of stakeholders held a consultative workshop to discuss occupational hazards in the construction sector and the scope of the cover that the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) can provide for workers in the industry.

The consultative workshop was held on January 19 with the participation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Cambodia Constructors Association (CCA), Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), and Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC), among others.

According to the labour ministry, the consultation focused on six points to increase the attention paid to job safety in the construction sector.

“[We] urge relevant sides to strengthen the implementation of health and safety standards in the workplace to reduce rates of hazards in the workplace. The expansion of the NSSF scope will fully cover the construction industry in the near future,” it said in a Facebook post.

The ministry said the consultation aimed to identify priority challenges and to encourage cooperation from all stakeholders in improving job safety for workers in the construction sector.

It had also disseminated the effects of asbestos and urged that its use be ended in the future. It sought enhanced industrial relations and cooperation in order to promote the national policy framework for improving working conditions for construction workers.

Ministry secretary of state Sum Sophorn said at the event that the ministry was continuing to focus on NSSF, based on the Strategic Plan for Employment and Vocational Training Sector Development 2019-2023.

“We are continuing to expedite the development of the social security programme for workers and public officials, former civil servants and veterans. We intend to strengthen and expand the implementation of the programme in terms of protecting workers from occupational risks,” he said.

Sophorn also made some recommendations with the discussion focusing on cooperation between the labour ministry, which administers NSSF, and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to implement occupational safety regulations.

The land management ministry is responsible for issuing construction permits, and one condition of these permits is the purchase of insurance, especially occupational accident insurance, in accordance with construction laws.

BWTUC secretary-general Yan Thy told The Post that workers in the construction sector still suffered occupational accidents, but only minor accidents happening on a regular basis.

“There have not been any building collapses or major occupational accidents in the construction sector lately, but minor accidents in the workplace and while commuting are still taking place,” he said.

The most common occupational accidents that workers face included falls from heights, electric shocks, being struck by falling objects and cuts to hands and feet, he added.

According to Thy, only a few workers received the social protection of the NSSF. Trade unions had requested that NSSF cards be issued to construction workers, but they had yet to receive them by the end of 2021.

“NSSF responded that many of the workers were ineligible due to not meeting the criteria required. One of the requirements is a certificate of employment issued by the commune they are working in. This is an obstacle for construction workers, because so many of them regularly move from one site to another,” he said.

The land management ministry said there are currently between 200,000 and 250,000 construction workers in Cambodia.

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