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Ministry mulls truck safety fixes

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Garment factory workers commute to work in a truck on National Road 3 in Phnom Penh in March. Hong Menea

Ministry mulls truck safety fixes

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng supported a proposal to replace the trucks currently being used to transport factory workers with a fleet of vehicles that are up to safety standards.

Sam Heng expressed his support while presiding over the “National Workshop on the Possibility to Transition from Trucks to Safer Vehicles” held in Phnom Penh on December 21. The workshop was jointly organised by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP) in cooperation with the National Road Safety Committee, the labour ministry and other partners.

The workshop’s purpose was to provide a forum for government officials, safety experts, workers, employers and other stakeholders to discuss the situation and exchange ideas on how to improve safety for factory workers and to collect input on improvements to bring the vehicles into compliance with safety standards.

“We are studying the possibility of upgrading to safer vehicles. I agree with the idea in principle and spirit that we must develop a strategic plan for safer worker transport. But how we manage to accomplish that remains a difficult question to answer,” he said.

He continued that the ministry was always concerned about the safety of workers and took into account the traffic accidents involving workers commuting to and from work.

Sam Heng said traffic accidents not only killed or injured people on the day they occurred, they often left them disabled and made entire families economically vulnerable for years afterwards and this negatively affected the economy and society as a whole.

Across the country in 2021, the accident rate remained alarmingly high. Six people are killed and eight to nine are seriously injured in road accidents every day in Cambodia, he said.

AIP country director Kim Panga said the number of unsafe trucks used for transporting goods and workers had decreased noticeably, thanks to the participation and efforts of stakeholders. However, the number of accidents remains too high.

Citing a recent report by the National Social Security Fund, around 4,000 vehicles were used to transport groups of workers to factories in 2020 and about 60 per cent of them were trucks designed and built for transporting cargo rather than passengers.

“I understand that replacing these trucks with vehicles that meet safety specifications won’t be easy. There are many challenges, obstacles and complexities. But if we commit to making this a priority and actively work on it, then we can certainly find an appropriate solution in the near future,” he said.

Panga said that on average, at least one road accident happens involving a truck transporting workers per month, often leaving them injured – sometimes seriously and with lasting disabilities – and frequently resulting in the deaths.

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