The building code

Setting the gold standard for construction safety in Cambodia

With new developments going up across Phnom Penh, inspection company TÜV Rheinland's country director Mali Thanaporn Nuengtong Grimaud shares her insights into technical and safety requirements for buildings and workers

April 2, 2018
Setting the gold standard for construction safety in Cambodia
Mali Thanaporn Nuengtong Grimaud says that completion of a building code is crucial for Cambodia's construction sector Photo: Sam Jam

How do Cambodian technical standards for construction compare to international standards?
Cambodia has no building code yet. It’s not mandatory, but many companies are doing inspections by international standards voluntarily. While the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction is working on [a building code]… TÜV as an international inspection and certification firm is willing to support in this aspect. What I know is parties are pushing [for a code]. In every country they have their own standard. In Thailand, in Vietnam, every building must be inspected by the government first according to your plans and your building.

Are construction workers properly trained to conduct their work?
They have experience, but they’re just not qualified. This is more on health and safety – first in safety for the people working on the site, and also in the building’s protocol for the safety of those who use the building… In order to construct a building, you have to weld metal, for example. In different parts of the building there are different [welding] methods, but workers might only know one approach. So I would say 90% of construction workers here are not qualified. In Thailand, you have to pass exams and wear a card, but here, no. This is a requirement that would be built into a building code.

Do safety requirements such as the presence and oversight of a foreman on a construction site exist in Cambodia?
According to my knowledge, I don’t think so. We recommend to have on-site safety measures; we do building inspections, boiler inspections, etc. Building inspections are inspections on wire installations, wire cables, fire extinguishers. [But] some staff don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher. They don’t know how important this is to use or how important it is to check that it works periodically – a fire extinguisher might go two years without being moved, and then the gas doesn’t work anymore. They don’t know fire safety procedures. They also don’t have safety shoes, safety vests, or, if they do, only some of them do, or they are not proper quality uniforms.

What efforts would you recommend for the government or relevant players to improve construction and development in Cambodia?
The ‘white book’ of EuroCham’s Real Estate & Construction Committee has provided detailed input on the construction sector and has an MoU with the Ministry of Land Management… TÜV Rheinland is a member of this committee as well. The government has to look into the input from the private sectors and to complete the [building] code and standards to be implemented and enforced soon… I think we can learn from other countries’ lessons learned. Many countries’ building booms have come before their standards. What we learn is that the collapse of buildings and fires [follows]. This has already happened in Cambodia with explosions in factories – luckily not a collapse yet – but we should create [building] inspections and requirements before these tall developments collapse.

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