Letter to the editor
I read the recent article in the Phnom Penh Post’s Property edition entitled “Making every construction site child-safe and free of child labour”, and I was very interested to read about the ‘ChildSafe’ certification scheme.
I see this as a very important issue, and support the initiative of the ‘ChildSafe’ scheme.
The current lack of regulation and enforcement of existing legislation governing the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) aspects of construction in Cambodia, allows construction companies and contractors to implement working conditions which place the construction workers and others at unnecessary risk.
The use of child labour as mentioned in the recent article is one element to this. However, another important issue is the situation where entire families are permitted to live and work in unsafe conditions on working sites.
As well as the obvious dangers present from allowing this to happen, such as children falling from scaffolds, or walking in areas where loose materials are stacked dangerously etc, there are the unseen dangers to the families’ general health – both at the current time and in the future.
In another, more detrimental long-term aspect, on construction sites there is always the potential danger of exposure to toxic chemicals, gases, vapours and even dust particles such as “silica dust”.
Exposure to these hazards can lead to short term health problems such as dizziness and contact dermatitis, but in many cases can also lead to long-term health problems such as cancer and liver damage.
In terms of overall safety and health in construction, Cambodia currently lacks clear national minimum standards and regulations in these areas.
The ministries responsible for producing these standards are making progress, and some of the more professional Cambodian construction companies are actively implementing internationally recognized “Best Practices”; however, there is still a long way to go.
I am currently in discussion with the responsible ministries to see how I can assist and support their efforts to introduce clear standards in this field, and also how to conduct professional monitoring of the implementation of these standards.
At present, CARE Cambodia is implementing an important project called “Labour Rights for Female Construction Workers”, and this project includes construction health and safety issues.
I have had discussions with CARE regarding health and safety training for labour inspectors from the Ministry of Labour.
In addition, I am in tentative discussions with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) on how to develop national standards in construction safety, and how best to monitor their implementation and company adherence to standards.
I would encourage any company or organisation funding construction projects in Cambodia to insist on the use of “Best Practice” in regard to these issues.
Bradley and Associates Co Ltd (Cambodia)