The Cambodian Government launched the Occupational Safety and Health Masterplan for Cambodia 2023 – 2027 in July. While covering six broader OSH strategies, the plan also includes a range of details about how the proposed asbestos ban will come into effect, including details for action, a timeline for a ban and management of related issues. This provides important detail and a formal government commitment that backs up the announcement of the ban in June 2023 by the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training.
The Masterplan states Cambodia’s intent to legally ban all types of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. It aims to promote the use of asbestos substitution materials, establish mandatory regulations on safety procedures for asbestos abatement, conduct health surveillance on high-risk workers for asbestos-related diseases (ARD), and include ARDs into the list of occupational diseases. It also states that the government will use the National Asbestos Profile and Roadmap (Recommendations) to launch the process of eliminating all asbestos. This includes raising public awareness, developing methodologies for substituting asbestos and safely removing asbestos in both formal and informal economy.
The OSH Master Plan has been developed in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Since 2017, a range of Cambodian trade unions and NGOs have worked together in a network (CamBAN) to raise awareness of exposure risks for workers of asbestos fibre and advocate for the ban. Their efforts have been supported by Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA with financial assistance from Australian trade unions, Australian Aid, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) of the Australian Government, the Solidarity Centre/USAID, and the ILO.
ASEA, in cooperation with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, has also provided extensive policy advice and technical support to relevant Ministries concerning exposure and management issues related to eliminating asbestos-related diseases from Cambodia.
Health, environment and economy will benefit from the asbestos ban
“For the sake of current and future workers and consumers across Asia who are still working with and dying from this deadly product, we hope this move to ban asbestos by the Cambodian Government will encourage other countries in ASEAN and South Asia to also do the same”, said Union Aid Abroad Executive Officer Kate Lee.
“The asbestos industry has known full well for so many decades, the deadly impact to workers and consumers from exposure to all types of asbestos, yet they still promote it as safe in Asia, even as so many countries in other regions respond to the evidence and have moved to ban it,” she said.
Today, 67 other countries have formally banned all types of asbestos, with no negative impact on their economies according to studies by the World Health Organisation. Safer substitute products now exist for all asbestos-containing materials and their local production can more than offset any short-term job losses from transitioning out of asbestos.
This project is supported by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).