27 April, 2019
Phnom Penh – Every year, some 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases and an additional 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents, International Labour Organization (ILO) data shows.
Job-related accidents have dramatic economic, physical, and emotional effects on workers and their families, as well as strong, negative repercussions on enterprise productivity and image.
On the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Better Work aims to draw international attention to the need to prevent work-related deaths, injuries and diseases across the garment industry. Safe and healthy working conditions are paramount to creating better workplaces.
Employers who comply benefit not only their workers’ wellbeing, but also their businesses as a whole. Well-kept factories offering sufficient medical services, clean water and workspaces that protect employees against hazards are key to enhancing productivity.
Under the Better Work programme, Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) carries out yearly assessments assessing to what degree local garment factories meet legal requirements on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) across the country.
The programme looks at a string of compliance points spanning the use of chemicals and hazardous substances, emergency preparedness, health services, OSH Management Systems and worker protection.
A challenging issue across the global garment industry, OSH also continues to be a stumbling block for Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry. A lack of proper policies and division of management roles and responsibilities on OSH affect many factories.
BFC’s Annual Report 2018 shows that even though workplace processes, policies and procedures on safety and health are not legal requirements, there is a strong correlation between effective OSH management systems and overall OSH standards.
“Having the best policy in place is not enough unless it has been communicated to workers and management, and adopted in practice,” says Sara Park, BFC’s acting programme manager. “Establishing responsibilities and accountability are important to promoting a practical and harmonized working environment. Good OSH management systems not only improve working conditions for workers, they also have a positive impact on business through increased productivity, fewer accidents and lower staff turnover.”
BFC’s analysis on the link between OSH management systems, non-compliance on OSH and overall non-compliance of factories, shows that the better facto¬ries do on their prevention systems, the lower their non-compliance rates on OSH and overall non-compliance.
It follows that factories need to have the right capacity and skills in their teams to guarantee that proper systems are developed, and that workers and factory staff have been trained to use the systems and to continuously measure their effectiveness through a cycle of ‘plan-do-check-act.’
Examples on the ground show this is possible.
Better Work-affiliated Sabrina Garment Manufacturing Corporation, a factory employing almost 6,000 workers in the Cambodian province of Kampong Speu, is committed to providing a healthy and safe working environment to all employees.
“Our OSH management system is based on provision of a safe and healthy workplace and the prevention, reduction of illness and injury for employees,” says Nicole Chu, Sabrina’s head of sustainability. “We continue to monitor OSH procedures to ensure our OSH program is implemented effectively and accelerating employees’ ownership of safety and health workplace.”
But bringing the implementation of OSH measures and systems to the next level in Cambodia needs a concerted effort from all parties.
Spurred by Better Factories Cambodia, an unprecedented collaboration among the country’s garment stakeholders kicked off last year. Under the programme’s Building Bridges initiative, Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) OSH inspectors, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) representatives, union and factories managers gathered for discussions and trainings on OSH management systems, workplace cooperation and social di¬alogue. The initiative will continue throughout 2019.
Meanwhile, Better Factories Cambodia has already began working with its 557 affiliated factories through its advisory services, supporting the strengthening of their OSH management systems. A joint action plan the programme has been working on with MoLVT to help improve working conditions in factories and workplaces across the country is also on the horizon.