CHEA Sophal, RADU Mares


Health and safety (H&S), in the workplace as well as in local communities affected by hazardous industries, is a highly detailed and technical area. However, companies implementing their CSR commitments have found it relatively easier to make progress in H&S compared with other areas such as living wages (chapter 17), excessive overtime (chapter 18) and freedom of association (chapter 19). The biggest disaster in the textile industry happened in Bangladesh in 2013 (Rana Plaza) and the result has been one of the most advanced multistakeholder initiatives (chapter 5) endowed with a binding arbitration system to hold participating companies accountable (chapter 7). The right to refuse dangerous work without fearing the loss of jobs is now a better accepted principle. Worker-management committees focused on H&S are probably the most accessible form of improving workplace dialogue and possibly a first step towards building more ‘mature’ industrial relations, particularly in countries where labour unions are suppressed in law or in practice. Industrial disasters affecting local communities require an emphasis on disaster preparedness and early warning systems as part of human rights due diligence (chapter 10). Local communities often need to seek justice in courts abroad to obtain remediation for widespread pollution and industrial accidents due to weaknesses in the judicial systems in their own countries (chapters 6 and 29).

In 2018, Cambodia recorded 200 deaths of people as a result of work-related accidents while 34,608 workers were injured. Cambodia has not yet ratified ILO Conventions 155 and 187 dedicated to occupational safety and health. The Cambodian Labour Law and other general ministerial regulations set the requirements for all workplaces to be safe, health and hygienic for workers. There is room for Cambodia to improve OSH aspects through developing the Safety Act and putting in place more regulations for occupational safety and health. The International Labour Organization records 2.78 million deaths and 374 million fatal work-related injuries each year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. The right to a safe and healthy workplace is central to efforts to ensure decent work. 

Main Aspects

  • Risks to business
  • International law standards
  • Responsibilities to record and notify
  • Designer and manufacturer responsibility
  • Right to refuse unsafe work
  • Safety and health culture 
  • Corrective measures
  • Co-operation between management and workers
  • Health and Safety Committees, and freedom of association
  • Binding arbitration
  • Business reports
  • Standards for Occupational Health and Safety Management 


ILO, Safety and Health at Work[1]

Every day, people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.78 million deaths per year. Additionally, there are some 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses each year, many of these resulting in extended absences from work. The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 3.94 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year.

Hofmann, 100 Years of Occupational Safety Research[2]

The focus on occupational safety over the last 100 years has contributed significantly to saving thousands of lives. In the early 1900s, workplace deaths and injuries were quite common. (…) Clearly, the workplace has become safer. Technological improvements, work design changes, the use of personal protective equipment, and improvements in the broader safety culture of organizations have led to significant advances. That said, however, there are still too many incidents in the workplace. (…) At the outset, one must acknowledge that the field of occupational safety and health is quite broad spanning multiple disciplines and fields of study including, but not limited to, law, engineering, medicine, public health, business, and psychology.

            Legislation on worker health and safety in the United Kingdom originated as a political response to social problems resulting from the Industrial Revolution and the associated poor working conditions in factories. The Factory Acts of 1833 and 1844 addressed specific working conditions for children (1833) and for women (1844). These acts established several basic protections such as limits on the number of hours worked, the securement of some class of machinery, and basic record keeping and inspections. Additional improvements were included in the Factory Acts of 1867, 1891, and 1895 along with advances in inspections of workplaces, requirements for accident reporting, and provisions for fire escape. (…)

Starting with initiatives dating back to the mid-1800s, we provide a high-level review of the key trends and developments in the application of applied psychology to the field of occupational safety. Factory laws, basic worker compensation, and research on accident proneness comprised much of the early work. Thus, early research and practice very much focused on the individual worker, the design of their work, and their basic protection. Gradually and over time, the focus began to navigate further into the organizational context. One of the early efforts to broaden beyond the individual worker was a significant focus on safety-related training during the middle of the 20th century. Toward the latter years of the 20th century and continuing the move from the individual worker to the broader organizational context, there was a significant increase in leadership and organizational climate (safety climate) research. Ultimately, this resulted in the development of a multilevel model of safety culture/climate.


ILO, Occupational Safety and Health Convention[3]

(…) the term health, in relation to work, indicates not merely the absence of disease or infirmity; it also includes the physical and mental elements affecting health which are directly related to safety and hygiene at work.

Part III. Action at the national level

Article 12

Measures shall be taken, in accordance with national law and practice, with a view to ensuring that those who design, manufacture, import, provide or transfer machinery, equipment or substances for occupational use

(a) Satisfy themselves that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the machinery, equipment or substance does not entail dangers for the safety and health of those using it correctly;

(b) Make available information concerning the correct installation and use of machinery and equipment and the correct use of substances, and information on hazards of machinery and equipment and dangerous properties of chemical substances and physical and biological agents or products, as well as instructions on how known hazards are to be avoided;

(c) Undertake studies and research or otherwise keep abreast of the scientific and technical knowledge necessary to comply with subparagraphs (a) and (b) of this Article.

Article 13

A worker who has removed himself from a work situation which he has reasonable justification to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to his life or health shall be protected from undue consequences in accordance with national conditions and practice.

Part IV. Action at the level of the undertaking

Article 16

1. Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without risk to health.

2. Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the chemical, physical and biological substances and agents under their control are without risk to health when the appropriate measures of protection are taken.

3. Employers shall be required to provide, where necessary, adequate protective clothing and protective equipment to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, risk of accidents or of adverse effects on health.

Article 18

Employers shall be required to provide, where necessary, for measures to deal with emergencies and accidents, including adequate first-aid arrangements.

Article 19

There shall be arrangements at the level of the undertaking under which

(a) Workers, in the course of performing their work, co-operate in the fulfilment by their employer of the obligations placed upon him;

(b) Representatives of workers in the undertaking co-operate with the employer in the field of occupational safety and health;

(c) Representatives of workers in an undertaking are given adequate information on measures taken by the employer to secure occupational safety and health and may consult their representative organisations about such information provided they do not disclose commercial secrets;

(d) Workers and their representatives in the undertaking are given appropriate training in occupational safety and health;

(e) Workers or their representatives and, as the case may be, their representative organisations in an undertaking, in accordance with national law and practice, are enabled to enquire into, and are consulted by the employer on, all aspects of occupational safety and health associated with their work; for this purpose technical advisers may, by mutual agreement, be brought in from outside the undertaking;

(f) A worker reports forthwith to his immediate supervisor any situation which he has reasonable justification to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to his life or health; until the employer has taken remedial action, if necessary, the employer cannot require workers to return to a work situation where there is continuing imminent and serious danger to life or health.

Article 20

Co-operation between management and workers and/or their representatives within the undertaking shall be an essential element of organisational and other measures taken in pursuance of Articles 16 to 19 of this Convention.

Article 21

Occupational safety and health measures shall not involve any expenditure for the workers.

ILO, Protocol to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention[4]

Systems for recording and notification

Article 2

The competent authority shall, by laws or regulations or any other method consistent with national conditions and practice, and in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, establish and periodically review requirements and procedures for:

(a) The recording of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and, as appropriate, dangerous occurrences, commuting accidents and suspected cases of occupational diseases; and

(b) The notification of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and, as appropriate, dangerous occurrences, commuting accidents and suspected cases of occupational diseases.

Article 3

The requirements and procedures for recording shall determine:

(a) The responsibility of employers:

(i) To record occupational accidents, occupational diseases and, as appropriate, dangerous occurrences, commuting accidents and suspected cases of occupational diseases;

(ii) To provide appropriate information to workers and their representatives concerning the recording system;

(iii) To ensure appropriate maintenance of these records and their use for the establishment of preventive measures; and

(iv) to refrain from instituting retaliatory or disciplinary measures against a worker for reporting an occupational accident, occupational disease, dangerous occurrence, commuting accident or suspected case of occupational disease;

(b) The information to be recorded;

(c) The duration for maintaining these records; and

(d) Measures to ensure the confidentiality of personal and medical data in the employer’s possession, in accordance with national laws and regulations, conditions and practice.

Article 4

The requirements and procedures for the notification shall determine:

(a) The responsibility of employers:

(i) to notify the competent authorities or other designated bodies of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and, as appropriate, dangerous occurrences, commuting accidents and suspected cases of occupational diseases; and

(ii) To provide appropriate information to workers and their representatives concerning the notified cases;

(b) Where appropriate, arrangements for notification of occupational accidents and occupational diseases by insurance institutions, occupational health services, medical practitioners and other bodies directly concerned;

(c) the criteria according to which occupational accidents, occupational diseases and, as appropriate, dangerous occurrences, commuting accidents and suspected cases of occupational diseases are to be notified; and

(d) The time limits for notification.

ILO, Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention[5]

Article 2

1. Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall promote continuous improvement of occupational safety and health to prevent occupational injuries, diseases and deaths, by the development, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, of a national policy, national system and national programme.

2. Each Member shall take active steps towards achieving progressively a safe and healthy working environment through a national system and national programmes on occupational safety and health by taking into account the principles set out in instruments of the International Labour Organization (ILO) relevant to the promotional framework for occupational safety and health.

Article 5

1. Each Member shall formulate, implement, monitor, evaluate and periodically review a national programme on occupational safety and health in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers.

2. The national programme shall:

(a) Promote the development of a national preventative safety and health culture;

(b) Contribute to the protection of workers by eliminating or minimizing, so far as is reasonably practicable, work-related hazards and risks, in accordance with national law and practice, in order to prevent occupational injuries, diseases and deaths and promote safety and health in the workplace;

(c) Be formulated and reviewed on the basis of analysis of the national situation regarding occupational safety and health, including analysis of the national system for occupational safety and health;

(d) Include objectives, targets and indicators of progress; and

(e) Be supported, where possible, by other complementary national programmes and plans which will assist in achieving progressively a safe and healthy working environment.

3. The national programme shall be widely publicized and, to the extent possible, endorsed and launched by the highest national authorities.

            (…) the term a national preventative safety and health culture refers to a culture in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where government, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the principle of prevention is accorded the highest priority.

Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh[6]

About The Accord[7]

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord) was signed on May 15th 2013. It is a five year independent [prolonged until May 2021], legally binding agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions designed to build a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready Made Garment (RMG) Industry. The agreement was created in the immediate aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse that led to the death of more than 1100 people and injured more than 2000. In June 2013, an implementation plan was agreed leading to the incorporation of the Bangladesh Accord Foundation in the Netherlands in October 2013.

The agreement consists of six key components:

  1. A five year legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to ensure a safe working environment in the Bangladeshi RMG industry
  2. An independent inspection program supported by brands in which workers and trade unions are involved
  3. Public disclosure of all factories, inspection reports and corrective action plans (CAP)
  4. A commitment by signatory brands to ensure sufficient funds are available for remediation and to maintain sourcing relationships
  5. Democratically elected health and safety committees in all factories to identify and act on health and safety risks
  6. Worker empowerment through an extensive training program, complaints mechanism and right to refuse unsafe work.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh[8]


1. (…) The agreement shall be governed by a Steering Committee (SC), which shall have equal representation chosen by the trade union signatories and company signatories (maximum 3 seats each) and a representative chosen by the International Labor Organization (ILO) acting as a neutral chair and independent advisory member. (…)

2. Administration and management of the program will build on the existing structures, policies and programs developed under the preceding Accord, and shall be implemented in such a way as to not contravene Bangladesh law, and shall be oriented toward the aim of handing the work over to a credible national regulatory body at the end of this Agreement.

Dispute resolution:

3. Any dispute between the parties to, and arising under, the terms of this Agreement shall be presented to and decided by the SC. The Steering Committee shall adopt a revised Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) to specify the timelines and procedures involved when disputes are presented to the SC, with the aim to establish a fair and efficient process. The decision making process of the SC shall be supported by a member of Accord secretariat who will perform an initial investigation for the parties and present facts and their recommendations.

The DRP will also incorporate the opportunity for parties to participate in a mediation process in order to make arbitration unnecessary where there is no resolution of the dispute by the SC. Upon request of either party, the decision of the SC may be appealed to a final and binding arbitration process. (…)


7. Where corrective actions are identified by the CSI as necessary to bring a factory into compliance with building, fire and electrical safety standards, the signatory company or companies that have designated that factory as their supplier shall require the factory to implement these corrective actions according to a defined schedule that is mandatory and time-bound, with sufficient time allotted for all major renovations.

9. Signatory companies shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that any workers whose employment is terminated as a result of a factory termination or relocating triggered by Accord activities, are offered employment with safe suppliers.

10. Signatory companies shall require their supplier factories to respect the right of a worker to refuse work that he or she has reasonable justification to believe is unsafe, without suffering discrimination or loss of pay, including the right to refuse to enter or to remain inside a building that he or she has reasonable justification to believe is unsafe for occupation.

Transparency and reporting:

14. The SC shall make publicly available and regularly update information on key aspects of the program, including:

a. A single aggregated list of all suppliers in Bangladesh (including sub-contractors) used by signatory companies, based on data which shall be provided to the SC and regularly updated by each of the signatory companies. Information linking specific companies to specific factories will be kept confidential.

b. Written Inspection Reports, which shall be developed by the CSI for all factories inspected under this program, shall be disclosed to interested parties and the public as set forth in paragraph 6 of this Agreement.

c. Public statements by the CSI identifying any factory that is not acting expeditiously to implement remedial recommendations shall be issued as per an escalation procedure determined by the SC.

d. Quarterly Aggregate Reports that summarize both aggregated industry compliance data as well as a detailed review of findings, remedial recommendations, and progress on remediation and training to date for all factories at which inspections and training have been completed.

Supplier incentives:

16. Each signatory company shall require that its suppliers in Bangladesh participate fully in the inspection, remediation, health and safety and training activities, as described in the

Agreement. If a supplier fails to do so, the signatory will promptly implement a notice and warning process in accordance with the Escalation Protocol established by the SC leading to termination of the business relationship.

17. In order to induce factories to comply with upgrade and remediation requirements of the program, participating brands and retailers will negotiate commercial terms with their suppliers which ensure that it is financially feasible for the factories to maintain safe workplaces and comply with upgrade and remediation requirements instituted by the CSI. Each signatory company may, at its option, use alternative means to ensure factories have the financial capacity to comply with remediation requirements, including but not limited to joint investments, providing loans, accessing donor or government support, through offering business incentives or through paying for renovations directly.

18. Signatory companies to this agreement are committed to maintaining a long-term sourcing relationship with Bangladesh, as is demonstrated by their commitment to this three-year program.

Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety[9]

The Members commit to:

  • Support the implementation of the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety for the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh (NAP);
  • Empower workers to take an active role in their own safety, and to be able to speak out about unsafe conditions without any risk of retaliation;
  • Work with factories that ensure a safe working environment, with each Member committing not to source from any Factory that the Member has deemed to be unsafe;
  • Rapid implementation that is results-focused and non-bureaucratic;
  • Providing safety inspection, and safety and empowerment training for 100% of Factories in the Members respective supply chains;
  • A common standard for safety inspections and safety and worker empowerment training;
  • Use of transparency to create accountability for all stakeholders involved;
  • Sharing of information on training, current and future fire and building safety inspections and remediation actions;
  • Strive to end unauthorized subcontracting within their supply chains, and review their internal policies to ensure application of best practices for addressing unauthorized subcontracting; • Independent monitoring and verification of their work;
  • Inclusion of diverse stakeholders in decision making and collaboration in implementation;
  • A Bangladeshi focus, with a framework that engages and builds capacity of key stakeholders, including the Government of Bangladesh and Bangladeshi industry; and • Commitment of substantial financial resources to accomplish these tasks, as well as encouraging and assisting in the establishment of sustainable mechanisms to meet these objectives.

In seeking to achieve these objectives, the Alliance recognizes the importance of building partnerships with the Bangladeshi government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (“BGMEA”), the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (“BKMEA”), workers’ rights organizations, other RMG buyers’ groups (including the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (“the Accord”)), and others who support safer work conditions in Bangladesh RMG Factories.

            To this end, the Members agree to the financial commitments and the components of the worker safety program described below. The Alliance Members are fully committed to creating conditions for the benefit of workers in the Bangladesh RMG industry that are not only safe but sustainable, with appropriate and careful oversight and regulation by the Bangladeshi government. The Members of the Alliance recognize that their role is to provide meaningful material assistance to reach these goals and to assist in the creation of a self-reliant Bangladesh RMG industry, while recognizing that ultimately the responsibility for and control over the industry and the safety of its workers rests with the sovereign nation of Bangladesh, its government and its people.

IFC, Performance Standards 4 on Community Health, Safety and Security[10]

1. Performance Standard 4 recognizes that project activities, equipment, and infrastructure can increase community exposure to risks and impacts. In addition, communities that are already subjected to impacts from climate change may also experience an acceleration and/or intensification of impacts due to project activities. While acknowledging the public authorities’ role in promoting the health, safety, and security of the public, this Performance Standard addresses the client’s responsibility to avoid or minimize the risks and impacts to community health, safety, and security that may arise from project related-activities, with particular attention to vulnerable groups. (…)

Community health and safety

5. The client will evaluate the risks and impacts to the health and safety of the Affected Communities during the project life-cycle and will establish preventive and control measures consistent with good international industry practice (GIIP),[11] such as in the World Bank Group Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines (EHS Guidelines) or other internationally recognized sources. The client will identify risks and impacts and propose mitigation measures that are commensurate with their nature and magnitude. These measures will favor the avoidance of risks and impacts over minimization. (…)

Community exposure to disease

9. The client will avoid or minimize the potential for community exposure to water-borne, water-based, water-related, and vector-borne diseases, and communicable diseases that could result from project activities, taking into consideration differentiated exposure to and higher sensitivity of vulnerable groups. (…)

10. The client will avoid or minimize transmission of communicable diseases that may be associated with the influx of temporary or permanent project labor.  

Emergency preparedness and response

11. (…) the client will also assist and collaborate with the Affected Communities, local government agencies, and other relevant parties, in their preparations to respond effectively to emergency situations, especially when their participation and collaboration are necessary to respond to such emergency situations. If local government agencies have little or no capacity to respond effectively, the client will play an active role in preparing for and responding to emergencies associated with the project. The client will document its emergency preparedness and response activities, resources, and responsibilities, and will disclose appropriate information to Affected Communities, relevant government agencies, or other relevant parties.

Security personnel

12. When the client retains direct or contracted workers to provide security to safeguard its personnel and property, it will assess risks posed by its security arrangements to those within and outside the project site.  

International Organization for Standardization, ISO 45001[12]

This document specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, and gives guidance for its use, to enable organizations to provide safe and healthy workplaces by preventing work-related injury and ill health, as well as by proactively improving its OH&S performance.

This document is applicable to any organization that wishes to establish, implement and maintain an OH&S management system to improve occupational health and safety, eliminate hazards and minimize OH&S risks (including system deficiencies), take advantage of OH&S opportunities, and address OH&S management system nonconformities associated with its activities.

This document helps an organization to achieve the intended outcomes of its OH&S management system. Consistent with the organization’s OH&S policy, the intended outcomes of an OH&S management system include:

  1. continual improvement of OH&S performance;
  2. fulfilment of legal requirements and other requirements;
  3. achievement of OH&S objectives.

Success factors

The implementation of an OH&S management system is a strategic and operational decision for an organization. The success of the OH&S management system depends on leadership, commitment and participation from all levels and functions of the organization.

The implementation and maintenance of an OH&S management system, its effectiveness and its ability to achieve its intended outcomes are dependent on a number of key factors, which can include:

  1. top management leadership, commitment, responsibilities and accountability;
  2. top management developing, leading and promoting a culture in the organization that supports the intended outcomes of the OH&S management system;
  3. communication;
  4. consultation and participation of workers, and, where they exist, workers’ representatives;
  5. allocation of the necessary resources to maintain it;
  6. OH&S policies, which are compatible with the overall strategic objectives and direction of the organization;
  7. effective process(es) for identifying hazards, controlling OH&S risks and taking advantage of OH&S opportunities;
  8. continual performance evaluation and monitoring of the OH&S management system to improve OH&S performance;
  9. integration of the OH&S management system into the organization’s business processes;
  10. OH&S objectives that align with the OH&S policy and take into account the organization’s hazards, OH&S risks and OH&S opportunities;
  11. compliance with its legal requirements and other requirements.

AngloAmerican, Code of Conduct[13]

We believe that robust processes for the management of safety, health and the environment are a fundamental element of good management practice, and essential for creating a safe and productive place to work and for maintaining our licence to operate.


We believe that all injuries are preventable – our aim is that ‘zero harm’ comes to those who work within and around our operations. We take personal responsibility to maintain a safe and secure place of work – our operations should have fundamentally safe, well-designed and well-maintained plants, equipment and infrastructure, with effective safety management systems.

We comply with all applicable safety laws in addition to our own policies and requirements. We ensure that all our staff are appropriately trained to manage their own safety and that safety standards are consistently applied across our operations. We are rigorous in learning from incidents and in preventing recurrences. We expect our consultants, agents, contractors and suppliers to follow our policies and requirements on safety.


  • Know the safety requirements and emergency procedures that apply to your work, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you must wear.
  • Identify, assess and manage critical risks.
  • Look out for your fellow workers and raise any potential safety issues with your line manager.
  • Deal with safety issues honestly and openly.
  • Report any accident, injury or illness.
  • Close out and act on any learning from safety incidents.
  • Stop work if you think it is unsafe.


  • Start work you are not qualified to perform.
  • Ignore a safety issue, however small it may seem.
  • Turn a blind eye if safety controls are not in place, not being followed or don’t work.
  • Assume someone else will report a risk or concern; safety is everyone’s personal responsibility.


Providing healthy work environments is a legal and moral imperative for us and constitutes an investment in the productivity of our business.

All employees and contractors should be able to return home fit and well at the end of each shift and remain so during the course of their working lives. Our most important focus is on eliminating health hazards at their source. We believe that investing in wellness programmes that support healthy lifestyles and emotional resilience promotes employee engagement and productivity. We also endeavour to support employees who are managing long-term physical or psychological conditions.

We believe that long-term contractors should benefit from the same health standards as employees. We comply with all applicable health laws in addition to our own policies and requirements.


  • Take personal responsibility for your own health by wearing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and adhering to mandated work processes.
  • Take appropriate preventative measures for any infectious diseases prevalent in the area(s) where you are working.
  • Proactively identify health risks and report these to your manager.
  • Ensure that the correct controls are in place when undertaking daily tasks.


  • Fail to adhere to mandatory PPE requirements.
  • Ignore a failure in controls – take responsibility for reporting these and preventing harm.

Bangladesh Accord, Quarterly Aggregate Report[14]

Key milestones

Bangladesh Accord, The Accord Handbook for Safety Committees[15]

This handbook aims to support joint worker-management Safety Committees to effectively contribute to workplace safety at garment factories in Bangladesh. The handbook is distributed to Safety Committees being supported and trained by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the ‘Accord’), but can be of use for any factory Safety Committee in the Ready-Made-Garment and related industries in Bangladesh. The book is based on the Safety Committee training curriculum that the Accord offers to Safety Committees.

Factory-level Safety Committees are an essential part of any factory’s health and safety program. In order for a Safety Committee to be effective, both the worker and management representatives on the Safety Committees must be aware of their roles and responsibilities to identify, prevent and address safety concerns at the factory on an ongoing basis. (…)

The Accord protects workers’ rights to:

  • Refuse work they believe to be unsafe
  • Participate in the work of their factory Safety Committee
  • File a complaint with the Accord when they see a safety problem in their factory
  • Protection against reprisal for reporting safety-related matters
  • Not be subjected to reprisal for Freedom of Association in relation to protecting their own safety. This means that workers have the right to be involved in making their workplace safe and healthy, individually as well as collectively through a trade union, and can do so without retaliation or discrimination.


The inspection and remediation program focuses on fire, electrical and structural inspections at factories and working with factories and brands to remediate the identified safety hazards.

The Accord workplace program focuses on making workers aware of safety hazards and how to respond to them, their rights to a safe workplace and involving workers in the efforts to make factories safe. The key elements of the workplace program include

  1. training joint worker-management Safety Committees in all Accordcovered factories;
  2. holding informational sessions for all workers in the factory on health and safety rights and
  3. providing workers with an independent complaints mechanism for raising health and safety issues without fear of reprisal.

Hazard Controls

Knowing the hazards that exist in your factory is only the first step in reducing the hazards at work. Some hazards can be totally eliminated, and that is obviously the best approach to take with hazards. But many hazards cannot be totally eliminated, so we need to reduce or control those hazards. There are four levels of hazard control, as shown in this illustration, called the Hazard Control Pyramid:

Global Report Initiative, Sustainability Reporting Guidelines[16]

Occupational Health and Safety

G4-LA5 Percentage of total workforce represented in formal joint management–worker health and safety committees that help monitor and advise on occupational health and safety programs

a. Report the level at which each formal joint management-worker health and safety committee typically operates within the organization.

b. Report the percentage of the total workforce represented in formal joint management-worker health and safety committees.

G4-LA6 Type of injury and rates of injury, occupational diseases, lost days, and absenteeism, and total number of work-related fatalities, by region and by gender

a. Report types of injury, injury rate (IR), occupational diseases rate (ODR), lost day rate (LDR), absentee rate (AR) and work-related fatalities, for the total workforce (that is, total employees plus supervised workers), by:

  • Region
  • Gender

b. Report types of injury, injury rate (IR), occupational diseases rate (ODR), lost day rate (LDR), absentee rate (AR) and work-related fatalities for independent contractors working on-site to whom the organization is liable for the general safety of the working environment, by:

  • Region
  • Gender

c. Report the system of rules applied in recording and reporting accident statistics.

G4-LA7 Workers with high incidence or high risk of diseases related to their occupation

a. Report whether there are workers who are involved in occupational activities who have a high incidence or high risk of specific diseases.

G4-LA8 Health and safety topics covered in formal agreements with trade unions

a. Report whether formal agreements (either local or global) with trade unions cover health and safety.

b. If yes, report the extent, as a percentage, to which various health and safety topics are covered by these agreements.

Human Rights Dilemmas, Health and Safety as Work[17]  

Risks to businesses

Legal risks

Most countries have legislation providing for OHS protections. If a company is found to have breached any legislation surrounding limitations on health and safety then it could face penalties. Penalties could include fines, remediation, and restitution for employees or compensation. (…)

Operational risks and risks to business continuity

Poor health and safety practices and unsafe workplaces increase the risk of accidents in workplaces, resulting in interruptions at work, work stoppages or employee shortages. There are direct and indirect risks for companies:

Direct risks include:

  • The loss of essential staff
  • Business disruption due to accidents
  • Damage to products or machinery and equipment
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • The costs of improving workplace systems

Indirect risks include:

  • Decrease in job satisfaction and morale
  • An increase in absenteeism
  • The need, at times, to train a replacement employee while a worker is sick or injured
  • Loss of reputation within a supply chain

Suggestions for Responsible Business

Adopting a forward-looking human rights compliance policy with procedures to match


  • Compliance with national laws concerning health and safety, such as the provision of protective clothing and equipment, ensuring machinery is in good working condition and regulating temperature and ventilation. Where local laws differ from company policy, the higher standard should prevail. Company policy on health and safety should be guided by ILO Conventions on health and safety
  • If there are no national health and safety laws or if laws are weak or poorly enforced, the company policy should commit to international standards, ILO Convention No. 155, on Occupational Safety and HealthILO Recommendation No. 164, on Occupational Safety and Health and ILO Convention No. 174, on the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents 
  • Committing to voluntary international health and safety guidelines including OHSAS18001 and complementary standards including the International Organization for Standardization’s 14000 and 14001. The Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series assist organizations in managing health and safety risks in their operations. Companies that have adopted the OHSAS standard include Coca-ColaLexmark and IBM 
  • Ensuring that company health and safety policies are tailored to the particular risks in the industry or sector
  • A grievance mechanism, in line with the Ruggie Framework, which allows employees to raise issues in relation to health and safety
  • Supplier contracts with the MNC must require compliance with the MNC’s social policy, as well as to maintain a grievance process to address claims in relation to health and safety. For example, Rio Tinto’s Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) management system standard requires that “principal contractors, suppliers and others with whom it has a substantial involvement” must comply with this standard 


  • Implement a health and safety programme to ensure the realisation of the policy by having a comprehensive management system in place. GE, for example, has a comprehensive Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) management system that focuses on four key building blocks. These building blocks include (1) operational responsibility and accountability relating to EHS performance, (2) programmes that are applicable to the company’s global operations, (3) effective training and the tools and (4) metrics. (…) 
  • Monitor the prevalence of accidents and ill-health within an industry and the social and economic context in order to gauge underlying risks of the workplace and how health and safety issues apply to particular industries and workplaces 
  • Effectively communicate any health and safety policy, associated guidance and procedures to personnel and, if relevant, to suppliers, subcontractors and business partners 
  • Provide employees with regular training and awareness building to sensitise them to the risk of accidents and the related dangers of working long hours without breaks. This should also foster awareness and shared responsibility and accountability in relation to health and safety practices 
  • Continually review and improve health and safety policies and procedures to ensure that they are in-line with best practice and to train managers accordingly. Dow monitors health and safety policies through its Environment, Health and Safety Committee. The committee’s functions include the review of health and safety policies and the management of health and safety practices. The committee reports back to the company’s board of directors so it is able to fulfil its responsibilities in respect to the environmental health and safety policy 
  • Implementation of grievance procedures for both employees and for suppliers. They can be internal or they could be at the industry-level (e.g. ombudsperson) 

ILO, Guide on Investigation of Occupational Accidents and Diseases[18]

Accident investigation checklist

1. Action to be taken upon notification of the accident  (…)

2. Gather information

A. Upon arrival at the site identify the employer and worker representatives and explain the purpose of the visit.

B. For each injured worker, collect the following information (this list is not exhaustive):

  • The precise details and severity of the injuries and how they were caused, as well as the worker’s job title, employment history at the site, date of birth and contact information
  • Where and when the accident happened
  • Details of the work activity in which the injured worker was engaged and the system of work in use at the time of the accident
  • Details of the equipment that was in use, including make, model and serial number, as well as other equipment, such as ladders, scaffolding, electric cables and personal protective equipment
  • Information on the exact condition of the equipment in use, including location, guarding arrangements and position of control switches, before and after the accident
  • The names, contact information and position of other workers at the scene and information on the activities and systems of work in which they were engaged
  • The system of work that would normally have been used to carry out the activity in which the injured person was engaged, and any differences from the system of work that was being followed at the time of the accident
  • The environmental conditions at the time of the accident, e.g. day or night, weather conditions
  • The general conditions at the workplace, including housekeeping, lighting and noise levels, vehicle movement, ventilation equipment, welfare facilities.

C. Obtain the following documents (this list is not exhaustive):


D. Interview the witnesses:

  • Identify all witnesses and, once the planning has been completed, begin the interviews.
  • Use the PEACE model (Plan, Engage, Account/Challenge, Closure, Evaluate).
  • Use “TED” (open) questions to obtain information.
  • Use closed questions to clarify facts or obtain specific information.

3. Analyse the information obtained

Complete the timeline to establish the sequence of what happened and conduct a fault tree analysis to identify why it happened. Keep asking “why” questions until no more meaningful information is obtained.

4. Identify risk control measures

Identify all of the preventive control measures that would have broken the chain of causation and determine which of them are to be implemented in the future, following, if possible, the hierarchy of controls: Elimination, Substitution, Engineering controls, Administrative controls, Personal Protective Equipment.

5. Monitor implementation of the action plan

Ensure that the agreed actions designed to improve working conditions have been completed, including, among other things, by conducting follow-up visits.

6. Complete report(s)/document information

Background (Cambodia)

ILO, Evaluation of the ILO’s Strategy on Occupational H&S[19]

Occupational Safety and Health in Cambodia

The right to a safe and healthy working environment is at the heart of efforts to ensure full and productive employment, in conditions of security and human dignity. Attention is drawn to this right in the ILO Constitution, and has been reaffirmed both in the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia and the more recent Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2008). Although Cambodia is yet to ratify key ILO Conventions on the subject, protection of individual rights to occupational safety and health (OSH) are covered in the 1997 Labour Law (LL), which together with the general requirement for all workplaces to be safe, healthy and hygienic for workers, also sets out a number of special provisions relating to inter alia, workplace medical care, access to safe drinking water, noise levels, lighting, heat and ventilation. Many of these are supported by accompanying ministerial regulations, or prakas, which elaborate further on the responsibilities of the firm and the entitlements of the worker.

            The LL also seeks to define workplace accidents, as well as the responsibilities of the employer with regard to accident response and injury-related compensation.  Responsibility for OSH labour inspection lies with the Department of Occupational Health in the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT).

            Cambodia is currently implementing its first OSH Master Plan, which came into force in April 2009 and covers the four-year period to 2013.36 This plan sets out a vision for the labour market in the country under which it will seek to institutionalize a preventative health and safety culture in the workplace, as well as support enterprise level initiatives and programmes both to raise awareness on OSH issues and develop practical systems for accident and injury prevention (in compliance with the labour law and OSH inspection requirements).

            The Master Plan defines six areas for priority action: (1) Strengthen national OSH systems; (2) improve safety and health inspection and compliance with Labour Law; (3) promote OSH activities by employers’ and workers’ organizations; (4) implement special programmes for hazardous occupations; (5) extend OSH protection to small enterprises, and rural and informal economy workplaces; and (6) promote collaborative actions with hazardous child labour and HIV/AIDS projects for stronger compliance.

            In addition to this master plan, the Cambodian Royal Government has many other laws and regulations regarding the protection of workers as regards healthy and safety at work. However, the implementation of these laws and regulations is still limited, and workers face many problems related to OSH.

Instruments (Cambodia)

Labour Law[20]

Article 229:

All establishments and work places must always be kept clean and must maintain standards of hygiene and sanitation or generally must maintain the working conditions necessary for the health of the workers.

            The Ministry in Charge of Labor and other relevant ministries shall prepare a Prakas (ministerial order) to monitor the measures for enforcing this article in all establishments subject to the provisions of this Chapter, particularly regarding:

  • the quality of the premises;
  • cleaning;
  • hygienic arrangements for the needs of personnel;
  • beverages and meals;
  • lodging of the personnel, if applicable;
  • work stations and the seating arrangements;
  • ventilation and sanitation;
  • individual protective instruments and work clothes;
  • lighting and noise levels in the workplace.

Article 230:

All establishments and work places must be set up to guarantee the safety of workers. Machinery, mechanisms, transmission apparatus, tools, equipment and machines must be installed and maintained in the best possible safety conditions. Management of technical work utilizing tools, equipment, machines, or products used must be organized properly for guaranteeing the safety of workers.

The Prakas covered in Article 229, shall also determine the measures for enforcing this article, particularly regarding:

  • risks of falling;
  • moving heavy objects;
  • protection from dangerous machines and apparatus;
  • preventive measures to be taken for work in confined areas or for work done in an isolated environment;
  • risks of liquids spilling;
  • fire prevention.

Article 284:

The missions of the shop steward are as follows:

  • (…)
  • to make sure the provisions relating to the health and safety of work are enforced;
  • to suggest measures that would be beneficial to contribution towards protecting and improving the health, safety and working conditions of the workers in the establishment, particularly in case of work-related accidents or illnesses (…)

Prakas on Occupational Hygiene and Safety in Garment and Shoe Factories[21]

Article 4: Use of Chemicals

(…) For the sake of worker and public safety, the employers shall:

  • Train their staff properly on how to use chemicals before assigning them to work [with the chemicals];
  • Ensure that all chemicals are only used in an isolated area where there is no emission to other places;
  • Set up an air pump-out system which ensures that the outgoing air does not impact on public environment;
  • Ensure that people working with chemicals are equipped with sufficient and effective protective equipment;
  • Ensure that emergency exits are in place;
  • Health and safety signs and warehouse regulations shall be written in a simple way, posted properly in a prominent place, and always be kept in a good state.

Article 5: Workplace Safety Training for Workers

The employers of all garment and shoe enterprises/factories/handicraft workshops shall have the obligation to necessarily train their workers and worker representatives on hygiene, workplace safety and health issues relevant to the work in each position.

  • The training shall explain to the workers:
  • Risks caused by physical factors (heat, noise, light, rays, vibration, etc.);
  • Risks of chemicals, biological and mechanical substances, electricity, fire;
  • Possible risks caused by night work;
  • Effective preventive measures;
  • Behavior in an emergency, when it comes to a rescue of victim 
  • The training shall be provided:
  • At the start of work;
  • When there is a job transfer;
  • When production techniques or machines are changed, or when new raw materials are allocated;
  • After workers take long time off (more than one month).
  • The training shall be conducted by a genuine technician during working hours, and the workers attending the training shall be entitled to normal wages.

Law on Construction[22]

Article 9

Every construction shall comply with the fire safety regulations, as determined in the building technical regulations and provisions of fire prevention and extinguishment.

            The classifications, types, and sizes of construction that requires fire safety certification shall be determined by an inter-ministerial Prakas by the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the Minister of Interior.

Article 42

If it is necessary to ensure public security, safety, and order, the competent authority can assign a construction controller to check building or demolition works.

            The construction owner, construction users, persons involved in building works, including a real estate developer, a builder and a construction certifier shall give cooperation to the construction controller.

            The competent authority may decide to suspend, modify, halt, or require the demolition of a construction, or take other necessary measures if the building or demolition work has been found not to comply with the building technical regulations and other existing regulations.

Article 47

A construction which is used for non-residential purposes requires a quality and safety control within a maximum period of 5 (five) years from the day when the certificate of occupancy is issued. Quality and safety control shall be further conducted regularly once every 5 (five) years, at the latest.

            A construction which is used for residential purposes requires a quality and safety control within a maximum period of 10 (ten) years from the day when the certificate of occupancy is issued. Quality and safety control shall be further conducted regularly once every 10 (ten) years, at the latest.

            Quality control and certification of the quality and effectiveness of the construction’s fire prevention and extinguishment system shall be conducted once every 2 (two) years.

Hazardous construction equipment requires a control once a year. The types of hazardous construction equipment shall be determined by a Prakas of the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

            A construction owner or a building manager has an obligation to hand over the result of the construction’s safety and quality control to the competent authority within a period of 1 (one) month, after the deadline for the conduct of the construction’s quality and safety control.

Article 48

The competent authority may require a quality and safety control if there exists a risk to human life, property or effect on public security or order.

Article 49

Construction safety and quality control shall be conducted by construction controllers or certifiers who hold a license granted by the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

            Every expense for construction safety and quality control shall be borne by a construction owner.

            For a co-owned building, the owners of all private units shall be jointly responsible for every expense for construction safety and quality control, in proportion to the sizes of private units.

FLA, Occupational Health and Safety Assessment of Huey Chuen[23]

The investigation was carried out through individual and group interviews with a large number of stakeholders, direct observation and testing, citing and reviewing of appropriate documentation, job task analysis and risk assessment. A thorough review of the PUMA and FLA Codes of Conduct was undertaken. A review of all Cambodian Labor Laws and Prakas1 was undertaken and relevant internationally recognized standards are referenced where the local standards were inadequate or none existed. (…)

  • The possibility that such fainting and subsequent illness might be attributable to the use of raw materials or chemicals at the workplace without proper ventilation

There is a strong possibility that the fainting and illnesses reported are due to the chemicals used in the factory. There are a large number of fans attempting to dilute the organic solvents but this does not appear to be sufficient in some areas. Associated with this is the high ambient temperature which would add to the vapours though evaporation. This should be formally tested. The workers are being exposed to the chemicals through inhalation, absorption through their skin and ingestion. There are multiple pots of organic solvents open. Smell is not a good indicator of ppm (concentration in the air – parts per million) of a solvent but there was a strong smell of solvents near to where the workers were applying this. It was particularly noticeable where the temperature was above 400 C. The personal protective equipment is inadequate and inappropriate. (…)

  • The extent to which use, handling and storage of raw materials and chemicals at the plant are consistent with national and international law and practice, the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct and benchmarks, and the PUMA Code of Conduct and other standards

The storage and handling of chemicals does not comply with international standards. Chemicals are incorrectly stored. Chemicals are poorly labelled. Not all Material Safety Data Sheets are available in Khmer or English. Workers have not been trained in the use of the chemicals. They are not using appropriate PPE and are unaware of the hazards. Despite repeated requests and searching the specific company’s web sites not all MSDS were available. Toluene is being used in the factory.

Better Factories Cambodia, An Industry and Compliance Review[24]

Occupational Safety and Health

The cluster covering Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) requirements is the largest cluster with eight different compliance points covering a total number of 60 compliance questions. Consistent with last year’s findings, many areas related to OSH continue to be a challenge for garment factories and are often the result of a lack of proper policies, procedures and division of roles and responsibilities on OSH. This suggestion is supported by the analysis in this report that links factories’ performance on legal OSH matters to the quality of their OSH management systems. This analysis suggest that the better factories do on their OSH management systems, the lower their non-compliance on legal OSH issues. This is not an issue that is typical just for Cambodia, but a general situation in the global supply chain for garment production. Non-compliance levels in the OSH cluster remain high and in general have gone up slightly in most of the compliance points.  (…)

In total, BFC covers 68 questions that are related to OSH:

  • 13 questions that relate to Emergency Preparedness;
  • 7 questions that relate to Health Services and First Aid,
  • 9 questions that relate to general Occupational Safety and Health,
  • 6 questions that relate to OSH Management Systems,
  • 7 questions on Welfare Facilities;
  • 3 questions on Work Accommodation,
  • 19 questions on for Worker Protection,
  • 4 questions on Working Environment.

Management Systems and OSH Compliance

Better Work has in-depth experience in assessing occupational safety and health in hundreds of garment factories in different countries. This experience has taught us that factories struggle to sustainably improve their performance on occupational safety and health since often improvements made are ‘quick fixes’ that are not necessarily supported with proper management systems and training of those involved in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces. As a result, Better Work has started to look at the quality of management systems relating to OSH in factories. All Better Work programmes, including BFC, have introduced factories performance on management systems in 2015 as a way to link compliance with the quality of their systems. For factories to do well on occupational safety and health, they should have proper policies and procedures in place that are known and understood to all management and workers so that they can be applied every moment, every day. Although management systems are not legal requirements, there is a strong correlation between performance on OSH management systems and performance on legal OSH related issues. This confirms that proper OSH management systems uphold compliance. This section provides an analysis that underpins those findings. There are six OSH management system questions that BFC looks at during its assessment as an information question:

  1. Does the employer adequately assign accountability to management for carrying out health and safety responsibilities?
  2. Does the employer adequately communicate and implement OSH policies and procedures?
  3. Does the employer adequately investigate, monitor and measure OSH issues to identify root causes and make necessary adjustments to prevent recurrence?
  4. Is there an adequate emergency preparedness procedure?
  5. Is there an adequate hazard/risk management and control procedure?
  6. Is there an adequate accident investigation procedure?

CCHR, Health and Safety Policy[25]

This is the Health and Safety Policy (the “Policy”) of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”). CCHR will implement this policy to ensure and maintain safe and health working conditions for CCHR employees.

Day to day responsibility for ensuring this policy is put into practice is delegated to the CCHR Finance and Administration Director.

All CCHR employees must:

  • Cooperate on health and safety matters;
  • Not interfere with anything provided to safeguard their health and safety;
  • Take reasonable care of their own health and safety; and
  • Report health and safety concerns to the CCHR Finance and Administration Director.

Merk, Country Study Cambodia: Labour Standards in the Garment Supply Chain[26]

g. Safe and healthy working conditions

A safe and hygienic working environment shall be provided, and best occupational health and safety practice shall be promoted, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards. Appropriate attention shall be paid to occupational hazards specific to this branch of the industry and assure that a safe and hygienic work environment is provided for. Effective regulations shall be implemented to prevent accidents and minimize health risks as much as possible (following ILO Convention 155). Physical abuse, threats of physical abuse, unusual punishments or discipline, sexual and other harassment, and intimidation by the employer are strictly prohibited. Occupational health and safety are major issues in the Cambodian garment industry, including unsafe conditions, mass fainting incidents and collapsing factories

Laws and regulations

  • All establishments and workplaces must maintain standards of hygiene and sanitation necessary for the health of workers and must guarantee the safety of workers (Art. 230 Labour Law).
  • Art. 248 of the Labour Law defines work related to accidents (accident or illness which happens on the job, during work hours or while travelling to or from work).
  • All employers are responsible for work-related injuries (Labour Law: Art. 249). Workers who usually work alone are not responsible for work-related injuries incurred by fellow workers who occasionally work with them (Labour Law: Art. 251).
  • The Labour Law provides for a compulsory insurance system for work-related accidents to be managed under the NSSF (Labour Law: Art. 256).
  • Labour Law-issued health and safety regulations do not apply to workplaces run by family members if the work does not involve the use of a boiler, mechanical or electric motors, or an industry that is not classified as dangerous or unsanitary (Labour Law: Art. 228).

Stakeholders’ opinions and analyses of implementation

There are many occupational health and safety concerns in Cambodia’s garment industry. It is a topic that requires more attention from employers and employees alike. Many workplaces are hot, noisy, and poorly lit. There is often little ventilation, the uncontrolled and undeclared use of chemicals, excessive dust, as well as a lack of preventive education and little access to personal protective equipment.

            A report commissioned by Better Work and IFC on fire safety, building and worker safety risks, identified a number of significant dangers, including: Unprotected fire hazard materials and equipment, fire hazard activities, inadequate automatic fire suppression systems, inappropriate means of escape, improperly maintained electrical installations, lack of emergency awareness and training, ineffective firefighting equipment, substandard building construction and design, and poor building maintenance.

            Three safety hazards have been highlighted over the past few years:

  1. Factory collapses: In 2013, the Wing Star factory, a supplier of Asics, partly collapsed and killed two workers and injured several others. The incident raised concerns about building standards in the sector, especially since a similar accident had happened 17 months earlier, where two workers were killed and seven were seriously injured.
  2. Mass fainting: Malnutrition has been regarded as one of the possible causes behind mass fainting, together with poor working conditions (for instance, excessive overtime, stress, heat, inadequate ventilation). The mass fainting of workers has become a regular occurrence in garment and shoe factories in Cambodia. Incidences range from dozens to several hundred workers at a time. The incidents have taken place at numerous suppliers, including those supplying Puma, Adidas, H&M and Polo Ralph Lauren. Research suggests there is no single cause for these incidents, but that a number of potential factors play a role, including overheated workplaces, under-nutrition, and the lack of access to quality food. A report by the CLEC and LBL states that fainting can be attributed to the insufficient diets of many Cambodians; in many cases factory workers consume only some 1600 calories per day (at least 500 less than the daily recommendation). The study found that roughly one-third of all workers, who spend, on average, US$1.50 on food per day, were medically malnourished. Body Mass Index figures indicated that 33% of Cambodian workers are medically underweight and at risk, and 25% seriously so (these kinds of figures have used to diagnose anorexia in the UK).71 Another research report noted that 67% of the factories have linked poor nutrition to lower productivity. The study also found that many manufacturers are willing to provide meals as long as the associated expenses do not exceed 2,000 riel (€0.36).72
  3. Safe transport: Another concern is the often-unsafe forms of transport that workers are forced to depend on when commuting to and from work, which includes flatbed trucks and minivans, which are annually involved in a high number of traffic accidents. In 2014, for instance, 73 garment workers died in crashes during their commutes, an almost 10% increase over the 67 fatalities recorded in 2013.73 In 2015, the number of casualties rose dramatically to 130 fatalities and 7,000 injuries.74 Cambodian law considers these accidents to be work-related.

US Department of State, Cambodia Human Rights Report[27]

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

An April 2017 survey conducted by the BWTUC [The Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Confederation (BWTUC)] estimated there were 200,000 citizens working in the construction industry; 89 percent of 1,010 respondents did not have contracts, most never received bonuses or severance pay, and only 9 percent were enrolled with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Work-related injuries and health problems were common. Most large garment factories producing for markets in developed countries met relatively high health and safety standards as conditions of their contracts with buyers. Working conditions in small-scale factories and cottage industries were poor and often failed to meet international standards. The Department of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) reported 2,533 work-related injuries in the first six months of the year, up slightly from 2017; of these injuries, 444 were the result of road accidents, since employers often transported garment workers to and from work in the back of unsafe open-bed trucks.

            Mass fainting remained a problem. The NSSF reported 1,350 workers fainted in 13 factories in the first six months of the year, up from 415 workers fainting in eight factories in the same period in 2017. There were no reports of serious injuries due to fainting. Observers reported excessive overtime, poor health, insufficient sleep, poor ventilation, lack of nutrition, pesticide in nearby rice paddies, and toxic fumes from the production process all contributed to mass fainting.

            The BFC reported that complying with OSH standards was a growing challenge in the garment export sector largely due to improper company policies, procedures, and poorly defined supervisory roles and responsibilities. The BFC reported increased noncompliance in every OSH variable measured, including exposure to chemicals and hazardous substances, emergency preparedness, OSH management systems, welfare facilities, worker environment, worker protection, and worker accommodations.

Hsu et al, Occupational Safety and Health for Cambodian Entertainment Sector[28]

Cambodia has developed booming textile, garment, tourism, and entertainment service industries since the mid-1990s. The 2007 global financial crisis pushed many garment workers, who lost their jobs, into the entertainment sector. Entertainment workers are typically engaged informally by their employers and are subjected to long working hours, sexual harassment, and violence. Many who sell beverages are forced into excessive alcohol consumption as part of their work. Many are also expected by their employers and clients to provide sexual services. To address unsafe and unhealthy working conditions for these workers, an innovative occupational safety and health regulation was adopted in 2014. (…)

In Cambodia, these sector workers also include those engaged by the producers and sellers of beverages, such as hostesses, singers, waitresses, bartenders, and others. This category of workers, however, also includes workers who exchange sex for money.3 This officially accepted term in Cambodia was coined partly in order to develop HIV programs for sex workers, given that the sex trade is illegal in the country. The term has enabled the health ministry, as well as a range of international and national civil society organizations, to conduct on-site HIV prevention, care, support, and treatment services mostly for those who engaged in commercial sex prior to 2007. (…)

The Cambodian Food Service Workers Federation (CFSWF) is a trade union established in December 2007 and registered with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training. It is a member of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, one of the largest Cambodian labor union confederations with a membership of more than 60,000. With the facilitation of the ILO, based on findings of the ILO study, the CFSWF developed workplace programs and began working with the beer promotion workers, on protecting their rights and improving their work conditions with the beer companies. CFSWF has accepted many women entertainment workers in restaurants, pubs, karaoke clubs, and other entertainment venues as members. CFSWF empowered them by organizing them into workers unions and encouraged them to participate in social work and promoted them to be women union leaders. CFSWF trained them on issues relating to gender, sexual harassment, workplace violence, OSH, and workers’ rights, and provided them with legal assistance when they faced sexual harassment or violations of workers’ rights at work.

This marked a significant step for entertainment workers. Membership with the Food and Service Workers Federation enabled entertainment workers to negotiate a labor agreement to protect their OSH rights in accordance with the country’s labor laws. Once entertainment workers found a collective voice, through trade union membership, they were in a position to get the attention of entertainment-sector employers. This led to a process of negotiation and an agreement that a national policy on work conditions and OSH for workers in the entertainment sector was needed. (…)

The Minister of Labour supported the proposed regulation and signed it into law as “Ministerial Regulation on Working Conditions, Occupational Safety and Health Rules of Entertainment Service Enterprises, Establishment and Companies” on 20 August 2014. (…)

The Minister of Labour and Vocational Training indicated that initially, the government will encourage voluntary compliance with the regulation on the part of “all the people, especially the entertainment establishment owners.” However, if there is persistent failure to comply, then penalties will be imposed in accordance with the regulation. An action plan to train key stakeholders on the regulation and on ways to deal with challenges faced by the sector in its implementation has been developed by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training. The Ministry, with the external support of the ILO and funding from the ILO and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria, began disseminating this regulation nationally since the beginning of 2015 to inform and familiarize the industry, its customers, and labor inspectors. Meanwhile, the minister has made provisions to allocate from his own budget, although limited, to facilitate monitoring and implementation. In addition, a regulation implementation guideline has been developed jointly with the Ministry, the employers, and workers trade unions.

As expressed by the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific of the ILO, “Cambodia’s effort to protect entertainment workers is “ground breaking,” as it dares to reach into a sector where most governments fail to provide adequate protection. Entertainment workers in Cambodia, as well as elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific region, face similar labor-related violations which are in violation of workers’ rights under the International Labour Conventions. These Conventions apply to all workers, including those in informal settings. Cambodia, in adopting this OSH regulation, has demonstrated an innovative approach and leadership from the labor sector, to protect the OSH of entertainment workers. This is a transformative approach to HIV prevention while strengthening labor rights and OSH among these workers.


  1. Why do you think leading companies have advanced faster in dealing with H&S issues compared with other labour rights (e.g. discrimination, freedom of association)?
  2. Why do industrial disasters where so many workers are killed or injured continue to happen in the garment industry?
  3. What type of measures does the government adopt to improve H&S protections?
  4. Are trade unions or civil society groups effective in promoting H&S? What roles do they play and are they collaborating?
  5. Why did Cambodia not ratify the ILO Conventions on H&S? How would ratification improve the situation for workers?

Further Readings

[1] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Safety and Health at Work (2019) www.ilo.org/global/topics/safety-and-health-at-work/lang–en/index.htm.

[2] David A. Hofmann, Micheal J. Burke & Dov Zohar, ‘100 Years of Occupational Safety Research: From Basic Protections and Work Analysis to a Multilevel View of Workplace Safety and Risk’, Journal of Applied Psychology (2017) https://goal-lab.psych.umn.edu/orgpsych/readings/16.%20Occupational%20Health%20and%20Safety/Hofmann,%20Burke,%20&%20Zohar%20(2017).pdf.

[3] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 155) (1981) http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C155.

[4] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (2002) http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:55:0:::55:P55_TYPE,P55_LANG,P55_DOCUMENT,P55_NODE:SUP,en,P155,/Document.

[5] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 187) (2006) http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C187.

[6] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (2018) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2018-Accord.pdf; Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (2013) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2013-Accord.pdf.

[7] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, About, http://bangladeshaccord.org/about/.

[8] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (2018) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2018-Accord.pdf.

[9] Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, Members Agreement, http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org/files/Alliance-Member-Agreement-FINAL.pdf.

[10] International Finance Corporation (IFC), Performace Standards 4, Community Health, Safety and Security (2012)


[11] Defined as the exercise of professional skill, diligence, prudence, and foresight that would reasonably be expected from skilled and experienced professionals engaged in the same type of undertaking under the same or similar circumstances globally or regionally.

[12] International Organization for Standardization, ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems — Requirements with Guidance for Use, https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:45001:ed-1:v1:en

[13] AngloAmerican, Our Code of Conduct – Our Values in Action (2016) http://www.angloamerican.com/~/media/Files/A/Anglo-American-PLC-V2/documents/approach-and-policies/sustainability/our-code-of-conduct-english.pdf.

[14] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, Quarterly Aggregate Report on remediation progress and status of workplace programs at RMG factories covered by the Accord (2020) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Accord_Quarterly_Aggregate_Report_January2020.pdf.

[15] Bangladesh Accord, The Accord Handbook for Safety Committees (2020) https://bangladesh.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Handbook-for-Safety-Committees-EN-spread.pdf

[16] Global Reporting Initiative, G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (2013) https://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/GRIG4-Part1-Reporting-Principles-and-Standard-Disclosures.pdf

[17] Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum, Health and Safety at Work, https://hrbdf.org/dilemmas/health-and-safety/#.YBl6DTmg82z

[18] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Investigation of Occupational Accidents and Diseases – A Practical Guide for Labour Inspectors (2015) http://www.ilo.org/labadmin/info/pubs/WCMS_346714/lang–en/index.htm.

[19] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Independent Evaluation of the ILO’s Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health: Workers and Enterprises Benefit from Improved Safety and Health Conditions at Work (2013) https://www.ilo.org/eval/Evaluationreports/Strategyandpolicyevaluations/WCMS_226411/lang–en/index.htm.

[20] Cambodia, Labour Law (1997) https://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/docs/701/labour.

[21] Cambodia, Prakas on Conditions of Occupational Hygiene and Safety in Garment and Shoe Factories No.307/07 KB/Pr.K (2007) https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=&p_isn=93391&p_classification=14.02.

[22] Cambodia, Law on Construction, promulgated by the Royal Kram No NS/RKM/1119/019 (2019) https://data.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/en/dataset/law-on-construction/resource/c1a1d889-c027-4c4f-a4dc-c3eb0c2eeaf2.

[23] Fair Labour Association, Occupational Health and Safety Assessment of Huey Chuen (Cambodia) Co., Ltd, (2011) https://www.fairlabor.org/sites/default/files/documents/reports/ohsa_report_07.18.11.pdf.

[24] Better Factories Cambodia, Annual Report 2018: An Industry and Compliance Review (2018) https://betterwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/BFC-Annual-Report-2018.pdf.

[25] Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Health and Safety Policy (undated) https://cchrcambodia.org/resource/eng/cchr_policies/HEALTH%20AND%20SAFETY%20POLICY.pdf.

[26] Jeoren Merk, Country Study Cambodia: Labour Standards in the Garment Supply Chain, CNV International (2016) https://www.cnvinternationaal.nl/_Resources/Persistent/0e05eebdbf4a1a6c31409dc12aee83b8f532a4b5/20161102%20CNV%20CS%20Cambo_clickable%20extern%20ENG%20DEF.pdf.

[27] U.S Department of State, Cambodia 2018 Human rights Report (2018)https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1298511/download.

[28] Lee-Nah Hsu, Richard Howard, Anna Maria Torriente & Chuong Por, ‘Promoting Occupational Safety and Health for Cambodian Entertainment Sector Workers’, New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy (2016) http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/—sro-bangkok/documents/article/wcms_502315.pdf.


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