As hundreds of thousands of garment workers continue to risk their lives just to get to work everyday, the National Social Security Fund yesterday unveiled a plan to introduce safer trucks to transport them to their factories.
The Kingdom’s roads are notoriously dangerous, and garment factory workers currently travel to work standing in the back on flatbed trucks, leading to many fatal crashes.
NSSF director Ouk Samvithya yesterday during a consultation workshop on safety said safer trucks must be introduced.
“We want all drivers who use trucks to transport workers to improve their vehicles to be safer and better than right now because most of them use trucks made for transporting goods, not workers,” Mr Samvithya said.
He said the push to switch or modify vehicles was discussed with ministries many times before.
“We have collected comments from truck drivers about the change…we do not yet know the result…we, the NSSF, cannot make the decision [to push for change], but we joined ministries and truck drivers to discuss it,” Mr Samvithya said.
“We have to discuss it and think about the issue some more – both technical and financial – but our purpose is to provide safe transportation,” he added. “We will start to implement the push if our plan is approved.”
Preap Chan Vibol, deputy director of the NSSF’s road safety team, yesterday said 62 per cent of all 4,537 trucks used to transport garment workers in the Kingdom are also used to transport goods.
Mr Chan Vibol said only 38 per cent are safe passenger vehicles, such as buses and vans.
“We have been urging for the use of safer transport vehicles for workers in the last few years,” he said. “Only 31 per cent of trucks were modified with benches for workers to sit on.”
However, Mr Chan Vibol noted more trucks are being modified to accommodate passengers.
“I see some factories that have corrected their trucks so the trucks can be used to transport workers safely,” he said. “Previously, they had been using trucks used to transport goods to transport workers.”
“We are doing this to adjust to the situation of our country,” Mr Chan Vibol added. “We are not using international standards, but this will be the national standard.”
General Him Yan, deputy chief of National Police and member of the National Road Safety Committee, yesterday said the committee is currently looking to increase the number of safe passenger trucks used by factory drivers.
“The NRSC is trying to urge for the use of passenger trucks to transport workers instead of using trucks used to transport goods,” Gen Yan said. “Currently, 38 per cent are safe passenger vehicles and we are starting to have trucks modified to be more passenger-friendly.”
Mr Yan said that a model of a modified truck will be shown to all stakeholders, including truck drivers, employers and the other relevant institutions.
“We will collect all their comments as the input for issuing a measure for implementation in the future.” Mr Yan noted.
Traffic accident cases involving garment workers from the first nine months this year has decreased, but the deaths and injuries increased when compared to the same period last year.
Heng Sophannarith, director of the NSSF’s policy division, yesterday said there were 1,186 cases of traffic accidents involving garment workers from January to September.
Mr Sophannarith added the accidents left 39 workers dead and 1,562 others injured.
He noted 37 cases involved trucks, 1,087 involved motorbikes, seven involved motorbike trailers, 12 involved bicycles and 42 involved pedestrians.
“In 2018, 1,504 garment workers were injured and 37 died in 1,378 accident cases,” Mr Sophannarith said.
Sorn Soben, a driver hired to transport garment workers in Takeo province, yesterday said he wants to see more safe vehicles used to transport garment factory workers in the Kingdom.
“I have a 15-seat bus to transport more than 30 workers at one time,” Mr Soben said. “I have been doing this for more than 10 years and I never got into an accident because I respect and follow traffic laws.”
Yem Vuthy, director of a transport association for the Vattanac industrial park along National Road 3, yesterday said he understands the need to pay attention to safety, but some drivers may have problems when told to switch their trucks to safe passenger-friendly vehicles.
“It is good and safe for workers, but drivers will lose income because they would have to install seats,” Mr Vuthy said. “The number of passengers will be decreased, too.”
He added some drivers can transport up to 50 workers in one truck.
Mann Seng Hak, vice president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodian Workers, yesterday said trucks used to transport goods should not be modified because those vehicles are not made to transport passengers.
Mr Seng Hak said buses and vans are more ideal to transport garment factory workers.
“I do not think it is good and safe for workers, even though modifying trucks makes them a little safer,” he said. “I want the government to push for the use of safe vehicles such as buses because it is better than modified trucks.”
He said the NSSF should buy safe vehicles for garment factory workers or lease them to drivers who cannot afford safer transportation methods.