Do accidents just happen? Very rarely. Most are caused by human error or by failing to take proper precaution by using safety equipment.
Why? There are two main reasons, the first being expediency and the second employer greed. The first, in the rush to achieve a deadline for completion of a project, health and safety measures will be ignored, frequently with dire results. The second is down to cost. Most safety equipment is expensive and the Employer is looking to maximise his profit from the project . Again frequently with dire results.
Some Contractors are beginning to take notice that being safety conscious is usually cheaper than having employees injured or killed on the site.
However it is one thing to have a policy on Health and Safety in the work place and it is another to enforce the policy on a daily basis.
Over the last few months I have visited many construction sites in and around Phnom Penh and found very few with a declared policy for Health and Safety. On those sites where there is visible signage stating the policy I have not come across one where the policy is strictly enforced.
Insurance for the Employees is not common and when an accident occurs considerable hardship is inflicted upon the worker and his family. The Employer must take responsibility both by providing the correct Safety equipment and also by having insurance cover for his team. There are many Companies providing such cover at a very reasonable cost.
I have seen too many bad situations on site involving lack of equipment. Basic items should include Helmets, Shoes and harnesses, when working above ground level. Training is essential for all employees but very little is given. There should be nominated First Aid persons on site so that immediate attention may be given. Additionally there should be a first aid box containing the necessary items for immediate relief for the victim. This should be checked regularly as items are frequently mislaid or stolen.
Construction equipment is frequently very old and lacking basic maintenance. When the equipment is hired in it should be accompanied by certification verifying that it has been thoroughly serviced. The Employers own equipment should have a maintenance schedule and the items should be serviced at the due time.
The Lighthouse Club of Phnom Penh is looking to introduce a scheme known as “The Golden Helmet Award”” which will make the award to the Company/Employee that has contributed the most towards improving Health and Safety in the Construction Industry over the previous 12 months. More information will be forthcoming in the near future. The Club is looking to involve the Cambodia Constructors Association and private Contractors to participate and hopefully sponsor the award.
(Written by Colin Rogers, Chairman of the Lighthouse Foundation Cambodia)