Statistics from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) released yesterday showed a 14 percent drop in garment worker traffic accidents and a 44 drop in faintings, though one expert said the lack of structural changes in the industry meant the drop could be little more than a fluke.
At its annual meeting yesterday, the NSSF released a report stating that 2016 saw just over 5,600 traffic accident cases, down from the 6,491 reported in 2015. While the number of deaths dropped from 130 to 103, the number of workers injured in such accidents, however, saw only a tiny drop of 1 percent, to 7,446 in 2016.
Meanwhile, 1,160 workers fainted while working on the factory floor last year, down from 1,806 incidents in 2015. The primary cause for the fainting was “psychological” reasons, the report says, referring to instances where workers faint upon seeing a colleague collapse, followed by health reasons and inhaling noxious substances.
Ouk Samvichea, the NSSF’s president, attributed the drop in fainting to the body’s efforts to improve workers’ health, along with improving factory conditions, but said he was still concerned about the high number of traffic accidents.
“Even though traffic accidents involving workers are down, the number of cases is still worrying, because a lot of workers have died and were injured [last year],” Samvichea said.
He added that the NSSF had promoted the new Traffic Law and stressed the importance of driver’s licences to some 1,500 worker transport drivers.
However, labour advocate William Conklin said the accident figures were no cause for celebration, noting that the underlying issues in the sector – safe transportation options and effective implementation of the Traffic Law – had not been adequately addressed so far.
“A drop in the figures does not mean a whole lot. There needs to be a lot of structural changes,” said Conklin, country director for Solidarity Center. “Without that, the numbers could bounce back next year.”
He was equally sceptical of the fainting statistics given that most factories had invested little in addressing longstanding factory floor issues like overheating and providing nutritious meals.
Prominent unionist Pav Sina, head of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was even more dismissive of the traffic accident numbers.
“I think that till the end of 2016, we saw that the traffic accidents with garment workers happened almost every day,” he said.