Thursday, October 09, 2008

Work safety worsens as Cambodian construction booms

Cambodian workers are seen at a construction site

Thursday, October 09, 2008
...the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, with about 35 percent of the country's 14 million people living on less than 50 US cents a day
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The race is on to build Phnom Penh's first skyscraper but as the fast-modernising city famous for its graceful colonial skyline transforms, safety standards appear to be stuck in the past.

The construction business in Cambodia is booming, attracting investments of 3.2 billion dollars in the first six months of this year and luring some 40,000 seasonal construction workers from impoverished provinces.

But, as construction worker Chan Vuthy can attest, work safety has deteriorated as buildings spring up.

The day a blade from a malfunctioning saw cut deep into his knee, the 23-year-old was wearing flip-flops, a cloth hat and no protective equipment.

When he stumbled to the bottom of the site, his boss scolded him for recklessness.

He was then fired, and had to spend his savings on a month of hospital treatment.

"Every time other workers and I have accidents, they say we are careless," Chan Vuthy says.

Cambodian construction workers risk their lives for an average wage of two and a half dollars a day, says Sok Sovandeith, president of the Cambodia National Federation of Building and Wood Workers.

There are no laws to force construction enterprises to pay adequate wages so many workers must live on building sites.

Few of them have any training and companies have little incentive to take measures to avoid accidents or use equipment such as hard helmets, work boots or safety harnesses.

"We're very worried about poor working conditions which have not been improved or guaranteed by law," Sok Sovandeith said, adding that construction work is the most dangerous kind of labour in the country.

"We are not happy when workers are not safely equipped. After some inspections, we found a lot of building sites and companies do not give out safety materials."

Many construction companies lay the blame for poor safety on workers who do not protect themselves.

So far the government has sided with businesses, taking no action to ensure better work conditions amid the building boom which has attracted investment from South Korea and China and helped fuel double-digit economic growth.

"The whole country acknowledges that construction is the third gem besides the agriculture and garment sectors to boost the domestic economy," says Im Chamrong, head of Cambodia's General Department of Construction.

"Some construction companies can't afford the safety equipment. We cannot force them to buy it," Im Chamrong says.

With few zoning regulations, new construction projects tower over traditional Khmer homes and the old French villas built in the colonial era.

In June, a South Korean company broke ground on a 52-storey tower slated to be the country's tallest skyscraper when it is completed in 2012, while all across the capital tall buildings are going up.

Once-sleepy boulevards are already crammed with expensive cars driven by the country's growing elite.

But the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, with about 35 percent of the country's 14 million people living on less than 50 US cents a day.

These are the men and women who end up migrating to the capital and risking their lives on building sites for a couple of dollars a day.

There are no statistics for accidents in Cambodia's construction industry, but there are many anecdotes about deaths and injuries to workers.

"There have been a lot of people being killed accidentally, but some companies try to hide the figure of the dead and victims," Sok Sovandeth says, adding the country needs better labour laws to save lives.

"Because workers take what they are offered, no better work conditions are given to them," he adds.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Bravo,

The Rectangular Strategy:

1- The Rich are getting super-Richer!!!

2- The Strong are getting Stronger!!!

3- The Poor are getting Poorer!!!!

4- The Weak are getting weaker!!!!

5- The Haves are getting More and More

6- The Have-nots are Getting Less and Less.

All These are What HUN XEN's Rectangular Strategy is all about for the previous and this mandate of his Government.

Before that it was the Triangular Strategy, and then the Rectangular and in the future it will be the Pentagon and then Multi-Sided Strategy.

When his national Strategy increases with MORE Sides, More and More Khmers will get poorer and die of famine.


Those live under the poverty line do not want Hun Sen's stretegy to have more sides.

Oh My Lord Buddha! May Hun Sen's National Strategy Have NO NO More Sides.


Black Cat

Anonymous said...

Are you awake, H.E the Minister of Ministry of Labour?

Anonymous said...

Lets read the answer of the head of the general department of construction, who hold master degree in construction engineering and management from a recognised unit. "Some construction companies can't afford the safety equipment. We cannot force them to buy it," Im Chamrong says.

He should go back to study on construction safety or he should find a lot of papers from the internet to prove that investment on safety equipment is cheaper than loss caused by accident at a working place. Below are some simple points one can easily thing of.

1. No safety equipment, worker work with fear of risk with less productive time, then lead to loss money.
2. one accident occures many workers around the area stop working,looking, helping lead to the loss of productive time. The loss will continue for days because the workers still remember the case and talking about it and keep working with fear.
3. If compensation law is available and enforced, the companies will be responsible for the accident. However, such law haven't been initiated. The law should be thought of by the head of the general department of the construction, hence he souldn't answer the such stupid answer.

Anonymous said...

These fuckers never awaken from their whore houses in Cambodia.

I say fuck them all!

Anonymous said...

Where is the labor laws??
Where is Chea Mony?
Where is the safety regulation?

Where is the rule?
Where is IS09000??

Where is ISO?

"International Standard Organization"

HUN SEN, where is your safety law?

Khmer PP,

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is not the US. We'll have all those things once our income/capita exceeding 30k/year or so.

Anonymous said...

That's all the steel they use for support?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've followed some of Asian building skyscrappers back in 30-40years ago they used bamboo to build skyscrappers in Hong Kong.

Now we are there in their foot step.

But we should adopt or adapt to new equipments now cause this is modern day. We don't need to copy Hong Kong style.

I prefer a tall crane to build new skyscrappers.

Eventually Khmer will get there. We built big temple made out of stone and please don't tell me we can't build skyscrappers.

We will one day build the tallest building in the world.

Khmer Pride,

Anonymous said...

I once watched the safety video at the company that shows the safety is the first priority in the construction site. The video showed in Asia the contructor used bamboo for supports, not steel.

I visited Cambodia and saw children and adults roam around construction site to look at the workers do their job. In the US they won't allow that to happen. they will seal the place with wire fence. Nobody allows in the construction site without steel shoe, hard hat, and safety glass. But, in Cambodia no one cares about safety because they don't get sued by the employees.

In Western country no company dares to talk and scold the employee when accident happened. Only Cambodia employer do that because they're not educated.

Poor Cambodia workers who are not protected and cared by the idiot government.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that for Cambodia to progress and to modernize and Cambodian people has to get kill?

This so called Cambodian economic progress under Hun Xen regime is no different than that of the Pol Pot regime! During the Pol Pot regime, Cambodian people are send to work and die in the rice field like animal to achieve communist agrarian utopia but at the end the foreigners kicked him from power to live in the jungle like a monkey!

Cambodian people today under Hun Xen regime is once again are force to work as slave labor and to die like animal for a few dollars! It is true that the foreigners don't need to kick Hun Xen from power because it is the foreigners who are doing the killing of Cambodian people!

I just hope that these dirt poor Cambodian people have a place to stay and have enough food to eat and they won't become homeless in the near future!