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Building committee concerned over construction safety in Preah Sihanouk

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Workers remove debris from a collapsed building under construction in Sihanoukville. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings is concerned about construction safety in Preah Sihanouk province as it ordered 23 buildings to be demolished, 166 to be rehabilitated and found 381 construction projects lacked the necessary documents.

In a recent report, the committee said the orders came after it inspected 570 buildings in the province following June’s deadly collapse which killed 28 workers in Sihanoukville.

It noted that it remains concerned over the poor quality of buildings in the province.

The report noted that the committee faces many challenges and said most of the construction in the province failed to meet technical standards and used poor quality construction materials.

“Most of the building owners are Chinese investors who do not understand the procedure of requesting for permission,” it said. “Some of them started their construction projects before getting approval [from the authorities] because of the high rental price of the land.”

“Some construction companies and contractors also failed to provide safety equipment to staff or workers and there was poor management at construction sites,” the report noted. “Architects, supervisors and engineers often do not have professional licences.”

It added that some projects also continued construction despite being issued with stop-work orders.

The collapse of the Chinese-owned building in June killed 28 and injured 26 workers and authorities have said that it was built without a permit and local officials ordered construction work to be halted several times, but the builders did not pay heed.

Following the collapse, the committee was created to conduct inspections across the city.

It was tasked with reviewing technical aspects, standards and safety of buildings under construction. It has the authority to draft and file reports to the Land Management Ministry.

In a separate report issued recently, Cheng Srong, provincial land management department director, said from January to November the Land Management Ministry had approved 211 construction projects, including houses, business premises and buildings related to tourism.

It noted that the projects involved a total of $3.9 billion.

Mr Srong said that during the same period, the provincial administration had separately approved 93 construction projects costing $87 million.

He said since 2017, with the influx of Chinese tourists and investments to Sihanoukville, the government has approved 1,076 construction projects, involving capital investment of $5 billion.

Excavators remove debris from a collapsed building in Sihanoukville that killed 28 people. KT/Chor Sokunthea

“Since the collapse of the seven-storey building in Sihanoukville, the top brass in the ministry is paying more attention to manage and inspect all construction buildings,” he noted. “The government created the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings in Preah Sihanouk province and this committee has created 23 technical working group to inspect and review the quality of building in the province according with the law, legal norms and technical standards.”

Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearom on Thursday said the provincial authority is working closely with the committee to inspect the recent constructions in the province.

He noted that since provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun authorised the demolition of 14 recently-constructed buildings in August, the joint committee is continuing inspections.

“More buildings will be demolished if they are found to have developed cracks or failed to meet technical standards,” he noted.

Seng Lot, a spokesman for the Land Management Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, Land Management Minister Chea Sophara said in a statement previously that legal action must be taken against construction projects lacking permits.

“The move aims to ensure that buildings are built in line with legal norms and construction standards,” Mr Sophara said.

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, yesterday said he is still concerned over the safety of buildings in the Kingdom, especially in Sihanoukville.

“The safety at construction sites is still the main problem and the workers remain at risk,” he noted.

A crane overlooks new buildings being constructed. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Mr Kin said the government should strictly vet requests made by construction owners before issuing licences to them to avoid future disasters.

“Some construction contractors are not registered at the Ministry of Land Management,” he added. “We have seen some construction projects operating without complying with the safety standard and the workers carry out tasks without using safety belts, helmets or boots even when they are on tall buildings.”

He noted that individual companies should create in-house safety commissions to ensure security and safety for workers.

“I think that a building disaster not only impacts the lives of construction workers but it also makes the company liable for the loss,” Mr Kin noted.

He also said the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings should expand its work to other provinces, saying that the problem of unsafe construction is not just confined to Sihanoukville.

“I have also noted that the committee was very active shortly after the collapse of Chinese-owned building in Sihanoukville and now it is inactive,” he said.

In October the bodies of three construction workers were pulled out from the rubble of an elevator shaft in Phnom Penh after the workers plummeted 16-storey.

Early this month, three people were killed and more than a dozen sustained critical injuries in a temple building collapse in Siem Reap province’s Siem Reap city.

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