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Labour Ministry forms new body to monitor workplace safety

People inspect the damage to a garment  factory floor in Takeo’s Tonle Bati district in 2014 after it collapsed without warning.
People inspect the damage to a garment factory floor in Takeo’s Tonle Bati district in 2014 after it collapsed without warning. Vireak Mai

Labour Ministry forms new body to monitor workplace safety

A new National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health established under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday will advise the government on all work-place safety issues – but excludes transportation accidents, which one observer said make up the majority of work-related injuries in the country.

The committee will have a total of 40 members, of which 20 will come from the government, 10 from unions and 10 from employers, Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said yesterday.

“The committee is an ad-hoc committee to advise and give recommendations to the Minister of Labour,” he said, adding that it will only look at work-related injuries that happen on employers’ campuses.

But despite a persistent toll of multiple-injury garment truck crashes, the committee won’t look at transportation accidents because there are other committees working on the issue, which is also covered by National Social Security Fund, Sour said. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is developing a set of standards for worker transport, he added.

But as William Conklin, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, pointed out, the number of work-related injuries that happen at work pale in comparison to those that happen while en route.

“It’s not fair that transportation is left out of this equation,” he said.

However, he said he was aware of the efforts to address the recurring crashes, allowing it was a “complex” issue “that’s been 20 years in the making”.

“There will continue to be traffic accidents,” he said. “The issue of transportation will take a long time [to fix]. The standards will take a long time.”

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said unions too are mostly worried about traffic accidents involving workers, and had hoped the new committee would reconsider taking up the issue.

“The ministry must think of a new mechanism to deal with it,” she said. Meanwhile, Moeun Tola, executive director of labour rights group Central, said the government could also improve worker safety by having regular inspections of workplaces, producing reports based on findings and making them available to the public, as well as require offending companies to complete a corrective action plan.

But, he said, he didn’t hold out much “hope” for the new committee. “There are plenty of committees that have been formed,” he said. “But . . . the work of those committees is not effective.”

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