Collapsed brick wall hurts four

Source Wednesday, 19 September 2012  Kim Yuthana and Shane Worrell

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Construction workers take an injured colleague for emergency medical treatment after an accident at a building site in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Four construction workers were injured, two seriously, when a wall dividing their building site from a school collapsed on them yesterday, police said, the latest in a string of mishaps in Cambodia’s burgeoning construction industry.

The brick wall, between the site of an apartment complex being built by PDT Properties in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, and the neighbouring Home of English International School, fell on the four workers about 9am, police officer Yean Kimleang said.

Kimleang, who examined the scene in Boeung Keng Kang I commune’s Street 282, said workers’ efforts to erect a concrete pillar near the wall had softened soil around the wall, causing it to give way.

He blamed “the carelessness” of the site foreman and said two of the workers had been knocked unconscious and remained in a serious condition in hospital.

Kimleang did not reveal the extent of their injuries.

Village chief Than Daravuth blamed the collapse on the negligence of the project’s engineers.

“We have told them to be more careful with construction after neighbours expressed concerns about their houses following a similar collapse,” he said, referring to an incident in which no one was injured.

Sophea, the administrative manager at the Home of English International School, said no students had been near the wall when it fell but management would investigate.

“We will certainly take action and look into this. We don’t want this kind of thing happening,” she said.

Mi Ni, a spokeswoman for PDT Properties, said the collapse was an “accident only” because heavy rainfall had softened soil beneath the wall.

“This isn’t a big problem because our construction workers are well protected,” she said, adding that the workers “were not seriously injured” and had been given a day off to recover.

Yesterday’s wall collapse adds to the tally of such incidents recently plaguing the construction sector – which has been heavily criticised for its lack of safety regulations.

Sixteen workers were injured, some seriously, last month when a 10-metre-high factory frame in Kandal province’s Punhear Leu district crashed to the ground as labourers fitted a roof on it.

A new industrial building collapsed in the capital in March – days before hundreds of workers were due to set foot in it.

The Post reported last July and August that a construction project on Sisowath Quay on the capital’s riverside had caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings, including Edelweiss restaurant, leading authorities to ask at least 11 families to evacuate their homes. It was reported at the time that Vattanac Properties was behind the project; however, a spokesman yesterday denied his company’s involvement.

Edelweiss has since closed down – because it was “affected by building at the neighbouring house in a way that we could no longer take the responsibility to keep it open”, its website says.

Van Thol, vice president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, said construction foreman and company owners often did not enforce safety standards, putting many workers at risk of serious injury or death.

Workers were also not vigilante when it came to protecting their own safety.

“The workers are supposed to wear helmets, boots and safety harnesses,” he said. “But most of them don’t follow.”

Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said Cambodian workers had the right to be safe at work.

“Even without the trade-union law [in effect], it’s hard for construction firms to argue that workers are informal. These are employees whether they work for a day or for a year,” he said.


To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Yuthana at yuthana.kim@phnompenhpost.com
Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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