Occupational safety and health

Enhancing Occupational Safety and Health Standards in Construction Sector in Cambodia

The project aims to address occupational safety and health (OSH) in hazardous industries in Cambodia, strengthen national OSH systems in line with the on-going national OSH programmes, and improve OSH standards at workplace level.

Background and rationale

In 2009, the ILO estimated that more than 1,500 people were killed by occupational accidents in Cambodia, that is, four people every day. According to union leaders, most occupational accidents occur in construction sites, brick kilns, and small enterprises that have neither the knowledge about nor needed systems in place to protect workers from injuries and illnesses. Common causes of injuries, illnesses and death include falls from heights, being struck by falling objects, collapse of buildings or structures, electrocution, suffocation, and exposure to hazardous chemicals such as asbestos. On construction sites, cladding use of asbestos, sweeping up of building materials, presence of other dust, noise, fire, electrical, and ergonomic hazards and overall poor housekeeping results in the exposure of workers to constant safety and health hazards and risks.

The ILO used to implement the first phase of the “Occupational Safety and Health in Hazardous Work in Southeast Asia” project, which was implemented between February 2012 and March 2015. The project aimed to address occupational safety and health in hazardous work in ASEAN countries with a focus on Viet Nam and Cambodia. In Cambodia, the project concentrated on establishing OSH standards in hazardous industries which were in line with the 1st National OSH Master Plan of Cambodia (2009-2013), and was able to develop a preliminary list of disease linked to occupation, conduct National survey to review the current situation in terms of usage of major chemicals and measures of protection for workers, establish the National Tripartite OSH Committee for strengthening OSH standards in the National OSH System, and provide training to provincial level stakeholders using ILO’s participatory Work Improvement tools (WISCON) in construction sites.

The ILO recognizes that the construction industry requires greater attention and effort to implement adequate control measures against the potential risk of major industrial accidents and injuries. While Safety and health conditions and legal standards are poor for the estimated 200,000 construction workers many of whom are unskilled and paid by the day making them particularly vulnerable to death injury and illnesses. Cambodia has not been able to keep pace with the boom in construction sector to ensure safety and health of the sector’s workforce and workplaces. Several causes, including absence of OSH law and regulation for labour inspection in construction sites, weak labour inspection, lack of supply of equipment needed to enforce the standards, scant or no supply of worker insurance, unsatisfactory statistic and reporting system of relevant data on work-related accidents, injuries and deaths of workers, lack of OSH training and awareness amongst workers and employers, condoned safety standards from employers and sub-contractors, adherence to traditional working methods, lack of technical skills in regards to operating machinery, as well as absence of any system of skills certification, and a general weakness in the formulation and enforcement of the rules within a multi-layer, multi-player construction sector aggravate the situation. Furthermore, informal nature of work where approximately 11% of total 4.3 million informal employment is in construction sector and under no registration of the actual name of the worker complicates the process of applying for insurance for the workers (ADB&ILO, 2015). Also, mobile nature of work where only 1 per cent of the estimated 200,000 construction workers are unionized and high turnover of workers poses a considerable barrier to formal training in the construction industry.

Employers and contractors are reluctant to invest because there is a good chance they will lose trained workers to other firms (or other countries). The employers’ and contractors’ reluctance is also based on the fact that training costs money which (at least in the short run) will raise the price of their bids and could make them uncompetitive. Due to this, some employers obscure employee-employer relationships through subcontracting as they can easily deflect blame and dodge accountability for the safety and health of the workers. Accordingly, workers have very few training opportunities because of insecurity of employment and high levels of unemployment.

Project outcomes

  • OSH policy-legislative frameworks in construction sector developed and implemented in line to the framework of the 2nd National OSH Master Plan and ILO standards
  • Preventive measures for occupational health hazards and risks including asbestos and chemical substances strengthened
  • Culture of preventative safety and health at construction sites enhanced, and OSH knowledge through OSH training to construction workers improved
  • OSH good practices in construction sector shared at ASEAN level and Convention no. 187 on Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 is applied for future ratification


OSH officials, inspectors and practitioners from the Governments of Cambodia, workers and employers in construction sector.

Key partners

  • Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MOLVT) 
  • Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MOLMUP)
  • Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DoSH) and National Social Security Fund (NSSF)
  • Cambodia Constructors Association (CCA)
  • Workers and Employers Organizations in Cambodia

For further information please contact:

Mr Yasuo Ariga
Chief Technical Advisor
Tel.: +66 2 288 1720
Fax: +66 2 280 1735
Email: ariga@ilo.org

Ms Chuong Por
National Project Coordinator
Tel.: + 855 128 44575
Email: por@ilo.org