Safer transport improves workers’ wellbeing

22 Sep 2020

Commuting to and from work is one of the most dangerous parts of the job. Most of the 700,000 garment and footwear workers in Cambodia are at risk daily due to their commute to and from the factory. Road crashes are frequent, and these can be devastating mentally and financially for families who’ve lost their breadwinners. The majority of the factories are located on national roads and lack proper lighting near the premises. Also, workers also lack a waiting area and are often forced to wait on the side of busy national roads. Poor national traffic safety is an additional problem: motorcycle drivers often do not use helmets; public transportation vehicles are usually old, lacking proper seating or overcrowded; and collective transportation drivers do not have appropriate licenses.

To tackle this problem, Better Factories Cambodia established the Transportation Working Group with a vision that “All garment and footwear workers travel safely to and from work, all the time.” The project was piloted in five factories located in three provinces and reached 8,000 people directly and around 24,000 indirectly. A series of discussions with key stakeholders were conducted, including the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and trade unions to identify their respective roles to ensure improvements to the safety of a garment workers’ commute.

“I changed from truck to bus because I am concerned about the impact on workers. The bus is safer as it has space for commuters to sit”, said a transportation driver who joined the programme

♦ Over 60% of the workers surveyed after the pilot program said they had attended road safety education events at the factory during that time, and 89% found them beneficial. 28% of drivers reported changes in their driving attitudes.
♦ During the pilot, three factories also reported an increase in passenger vehicles, including 15 new buses and 30 new vans.
♦ Data collected after the pilot program indicated a 77% reduction in crash cases from the pre-pilot to the post-pilot period. They decreased from 254 cases to 57.
♦ Four drivers surveyed after the pilot program also changed their vehicles, switching to buses and better transportation options.
♦ The evaluation after the pilot program showed an increased number of workers expressed a willingness to pay up to US$5 more for safer transport.

Members of the group include brands like VFC, Clarks, Decathlon, Puma, H&M, Primark, M&S, Next, Li & Fung, Lidl, C&A, Tapestry, plus manufacturing group Sabrina and Better Factories Cambodia, Road Safety Experts AIP Foundation, and development agencies; The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Solidarity Center.

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