The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training held a March 27 workshop that aims to establish increased mindfulness of occupational safety and health (OSH) in large factories and enterprises.

The ministry also advised the Textile, Apparel, Footwear & Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC) and the Cambodia Business Association to pay close attention to the safety of workers, especially when it came to the risk of fire.

Ministry secretary of state Huy Han Song said the conference’s agenda reflected current requirements, and took into account the measures that most factories have already implemented.

“The workshop was held to address some of the finer points surrounding the risks associated with fire, electricity or a lack of ventilation. These issues do not just affect human lives, but can damage property, or lead to a reduction in productivity,” he added.

“Building a culture of OSH in the workplace is a long-term vision that will require active participation and commitment by all parties. This includes the government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, as well as OSH specialists and consultants,” he continued.

He advised the owners of large factories that regular inspections should be carried out of fire prevention systems, whether extinguishers, water cannons and hoses, alarm bells and smoke detectors, or emergency lighting systems.

“Emergency exits must be kept clear of anything that may hinder the escape of employees in an emergency and must above all, be unlocked. Flammable substances should be stored safely. Electrical systems should be tested regularly, as they by far the most common cause of fires in the workplace,” he concluded.

Leng Tong, director of the ministry’s Occupational Health and Safety Department, warned that the failure to manage fire hazards can have serious consequences, especially when fire escape routes are poorly maintained.

“This particular problem can have a domino effect. When a fire breaks out, smoke or noxious gases are often generated. If people cannot easily escape from the area of a fire, they may be overwhelmed by the smoke or fumes, lose consciousness, and succumb to the flames,” he said.

Cambodian Footwear Association president Ly Khun Thai said the association often reminded its members to remain vigilant about the risk of fires.

“This is especially important in our industry, as we employ many flammable materials. We insist that our members are adequately equipped in case of fire,” he added.

“In addition, we urge that they provide good ventilation to their workers, so that mass faintings are avoided,” he concluded.