Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng urged stakeholders to gain a broader understanding of health and safety at work and the causes of occupational accidents to reduce the loss of lives at work and promote job safety.

The minister was speaking at an event held by the Siem Reap provincial labour department to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work on July 5, with this year’s theme being “Working together to build a culture of safety and positive health”.

This is the 17th year that the labour ministry has observed the day in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through the project to improve the standards of occupational safety and health in the construction sector and the Better Factories Cambodia project.

The event brought together more than 700 participants from the tourism, hotel, construction and handicrafts industries.

Samheng said the programme is an international campaign run by the government, employers’ associations and trade unions of ILO member countries around the world every year in memory of all workers who had lost their lives due to occupational accidents and diseases and in order to promote decent, safe jobs and occupational health.

Presiding over the event, Samheng urged stakeholders to spread the word to increase understanding and cooperation on occupational safety and health to state institutions, partner organisations, employers’ associations, trade unions and workers to promote a positive culture of safety and health in the workplace.

“We must disseminate and share the conditions and the extent of risks of occupational accidents and impacts on workers as well as good practices by employers and workers on occupational safety and health at work,” he added.

He also called for further promotion of the movement to attract political and financial support to prevent and reduce the loss of life, occupational accidents and diseases across the world.

Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) president Ath Thorn said that holding World Day for Safety and Health at Work is a necessary reminder for workers and other stakeholders to more effectively implement safety and health measures at work.

He also urged the labour ministry to continue to inspect factories and enterprises and – if they fail to comply with working conditions – to impose strict penalties until they comply with safety standards.

“There have been many health and safety problems, and the deaths of workers in workplaces still persist due to poor management systems. So, we urge the labour ministry to carry out transparent inspections. Those who do wrong should be severely punished and the ministry should especially set up a new policy to help vulnerable workers,” he said.

Thorn noted that the numbers of occupational accidents and deaths were still high in the construction sector, agriculture and in metal-processing factories. He said some employers flouted the law and did not even allow the establishment of trade unions.

According to an ILO report in 2022, it was estimated that three million deaths had been recorded worldwide due to occupational accidents and diseases.

According to the labour ministry’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF) report, a total of 11,258 workers, 6,220 of them women, had occupational accidents in 2021.

Of those accidents, a total of 5,725 workers had accidents while at work and nearly as many workers – 5,533 – had accidents while travelling to work. However, the number of accidents had dropped 25.84 per cent compared to 2020 largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.