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Construction safety protocol defined

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Construction workers pour cement on a high-rise building site in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in late January. Hong Menea

Construction safety protocol defined

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has issued a prakas setting danger levels, procedures to avoid risk, and processes to control dangerous construction to ensure health and safety in the sector.

The parkas, issued on February 1, has all construction in the Kingdom under its jurisdiction, bar some particular constructions that have their own separate legal standards. Signed by minister Chea Sophara, it consists of six chapters and 23 articles.

The prakas defined construction practices that could endanger the physical health of workers and the public. It also set the responsibilities of construction owners, construction managers and tenants for dangers that may be caused by the construction.

It divided potential hazards into immediate and long-term risks. Authorities are also required to ensure risk prevention.

“If authorities receive complaints or information about dangerous practices, they must inspect the quality and safety of the project. The authorities will assign officials to evaluate the site and reach a conclusion on its risk level.

“If the inspectors draw the conclusion that the project may be hazardous, the safety officials will report the construction to the relevant authorities,” said the prakas.

It instructed that the safety and quality assessments must be submitted between three and 10 days following the inspection.

“In an emergency case, authorities may order a report prepared by a private company; the expense of such a report shall be borne by the construction owners,” it said.

Sophara said in the prakas that if an inspection determined that an accident was likely to take place, the governors of the capital, provinces, and district must inform the construction owners, managers and tenants and those living on that site to leave immediately.

“Such immediate measures include evacuation of the site, identifying neighbouring structures that may be at risk and the evacuation of people from those buildings. Authorities may lock the site down and ban any and all access.

“Parts of the construction that may be dangerous can be dismantled, and access to those locations can be blocked to avoid hazards,” Sophara said.

According to the prakas, authorities are given the right to dismantle dangerous construction in case of non-compliance, with the owners liable for any expense or losses.

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, welcomed the prakas and other recently promulgated laws, though he said actual practices were still loose, a sign that the laws required more effective implementation.

“Most of these laws and legal standards do not mandate particular authorities to enforce them. I don’t say there is corruption in enforcing these laws, but there are irregularities because some companies belong to influential or powerful people or are backed up by them.

“This problem enables some local or foreign companies to construct buildings without permission,” he said.

According to Kin, more than 3,000 construction companies registered in Cambodia from 2020 to 2021, but only slightly over 1,000 of them had valid licences and respected the laws. The rest of them have expired licences but are continuing to work illegally.

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