Road accidents involving factory workers increased in the first half of 2022, government statistics show, with 1,630 accidents and fifty-three deaths recorded, an increase of 22% compared to the same period last year.
The statistics show the causes of the traffic accidents were speeding (38%), disrespecting the right of way (24%), reckless driving (14%), careless turns (7.5%), overtaking in an accident situation (7%), road conditions (3%), vehicle technology (2.5%), and other factors.
Heng Sophannarith, Deputy Director General of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the government organization that monitors road accidents involving garment and footwear workers, said that the government is trying to educate them on road rules and travel safety as well as ensuring vehicles are road-worthy.
“Road accidents are hidden killers that harm families, the economy, and society as a whole,” he said.
Kim Pagna, country director for Cambodia at AIP Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to reducing road accidents in developing countries, said there are multiple reasons why road accidents involving factory workers are increasing.
These include drivers’ understanding of road rules, driver behavior, and problems with vehicles, he said, adding that factories needed to better educate drivers and the government needed to tighten law enforcement around traffic violations.
“When an organization, including a factory, has a policy on road safety, it really promotes awareness and commitment among workers and helps respond to challenges,” he said.
“Dissemination about, and enforcement of, the law will change the attitude of workers and drivers. It will contribute to reducing the risk,” he added.
Because of the major contribution the garment industry makes to the Cambodian economy, the government should also work hard to ensure safety of its workers, he said.
“Workers are like their children (the government’s) and are the main earners through labor. So the government has to play the most important role,” he explained. He said that in 2019 alone the government lost $467 million to road accidents across the country, according to a UNDP study.
AIP says a study it did in 2021 showed that 30% of collective transport vehicles used to take workers to their factories are not registered and only 7% are insured, possibly due to the age and poor standard of the vehicle.
Of the 4,500 collective transport vehicles on Cambodia’s roads, over 60% are flatbed cargo trucks, making them ill-equipped for safe passenger transport. Only 38% of collective transport vehicles for factory workers are safe, appropriate vehicles such as buses and vans, AIP research shows.
Suon Sokunthea, Vice President of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, said that in order to reduce traffic accidents, factories should also crack down on drunk drivers.
“Stopping drinking alcohol will reduce accidents,” she said.
Other factors contributing to the spate of road accidents include the overloading of vehicles with too many workers.
Kong Dany, a 40-year-old garment factory worker in Phnom Penh, said at her factory workers use collective transport vehicles which are always overloaded and could easily cause accidents.
Yet another problem is moto riders and drivers not wearing helmets.
Seng Phan, worked at a garment factory before a motorcycle accident last year left her unable to walk or work, leading to financial difficulties for her family.
She said she hadn’t been wearing a helmet at the time.