Exposure to harmful substances in the workplace remains a pressing concern in Cambodia, despite the labour ministry’s appeals to employers and employees regarding the matter, a senior official warned on July 1.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training adviser and director for occupational safety and health (OSH), Leng Tong, brought up the issue during the launch of the “Second National Occupational and Health Profile” and “Guidelines on Safety in the use of Chemicals at Work”.

The ministry said the second profile contains statistics and information updated from the inaugural version launched in 2011, concerning OSH as well as educational activities thereof, workplace accident compensation and legal issues.

“Generally when economies grow, challenges emerge and confront OSH management,” Tong said, stressing the importance of the latest profile and its legal provisions tailored to prevent hazards in the workplace.

The ministry drew up the principles contained in the second profile motivated by the perceived feasibility of setting up safeguards to manage exposure to non-contagious hazardous agents in the workplace, he said, noting that the document was signed by minister Ith Samheng on May 20.

He affirmed that the ministry would organise workshops and provide training on OSH to inspectors and representatives of employers and employees in the capital and all 24 provinces.

The Second National Occupational and Health Profile was compiled with technical support from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and funded by the “Enhancing Occupational Safety and Health [OSH] Standards in Construction Sector in Cambodia” project under the ILO/Japan Multi-bilateral Programme.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn said that while OSH has been written into law, enforcement has historically been lacklustre, although the government has paid greater attention to wages and social security.

“But lately, we’ve seen the government shift some attention to this issue as we’re still met with challenges in the workplace, with workers fainting at some factories,” he said.

Labour unions and the ILO have pushed for a declaration on OSH, especially for construction workers, he said, mentioning a claim that a law on the matter was in the pipeline.