New fears over safety standards as two workers die in Cambodian factory collapse

Taiwanese-owned factory was making sports shoes Asics

Phnom Penh

Two people were killed and nine others injured after a ceiling collapsed at a shoe factory south of Phnom Penn in Cambodia, raising fresh concerns about industrial safely following last month’s disaster in a garment plant in Bangladesh in which up to 1,200 people lost their lives.

Police in Kampong Speu said the ceiling of the factory collapsed at around 7am on Thursday morning. The nine injured people were taken to hospital in Phnom Penh. 60 other employees who were present at the time were not hurt

“Two people, a 21-year-old man and a woman, were found dead, but fortunately nine others survived and only received minor injuries,” said officer Im Thou. “It was not the whole building that collapsed, but just the front storage part of the factory itself.”

The factory was operated by Wing Star Shoes, a Taiwanese-owned factory that has employed up to 6,000 workers. It was making sports shoes Asics, a Japanese sportswear label. The shoes made at the factory were exported to the US and Europe

“This evening, the company has settled the compensation with the victims’ family and the injured. $5,000 goes to the families of the two fatalities while $1,000 will to to each of those who was injured,” said the police officer.

Images from the scene of the accident suggested the factory’s roof was made of thin materials and poorly constructed. The area had been used to store equipment and materials but could not hold the weight.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said that the incident would stir fears among the workers about their safety at work.

“The garment factories in Cambodia haven’t met the international operational standard yet,” he said. “The materials used to build buildings were not carefully checked, and that means people who work there face a high risk of danger.”

The accident comes just a little more than three weeks after a building housing five garment factories in Bangladesh crashed down on thousands of workers, killing 1,127 people. That disaster is the deadliest in the history of the global garment business and has led to calls for Western retailers to do more to ensure the safety of those who make their products.

“This shows that the problem is not only isolated to Bangladesh, and that companies elsewhere are trying to drive prices down by taking short-cuts on workers’ safety,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press.

An Asics spokeswoman in Tokyo confirmed the factory was in contract to make Asics running shoes. She said Asics was trying to determine what happened. “We understand that some people have died, so first we offer our condolences,” said spokeswoman Masayo Hasegawa.

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