Worker Dies Trying to Get Off Elevator at High-Rise Building Site

A 21-year-old worker died Wednesday when he hit his head on a metal shaft after trying to get off a construction elevator that malfunctioned at a building site in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district.

Kaing Sinoeun, originally from Prey Veng province, was riding the elevator up to the 15th floor of the half-built apartment building in Boeng Prolit commune with three coworkers when the lift began shaking violently, according to commune police chief Pat Samnat.

Bystanders gather Wednesday at a construction site in Phnom Penh's Prampi Makara district where Kaing Sinoeun, 21, died, as his body is loaded into an ambulance. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Bystanders gather Wednesday at a construction site in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district where Kaing Sinoeun, 21, died, as his body is loaded into an ambulance. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“He made a mistake by trying to jump out by himself and he got hit in the head and died,” Mr. Samnat said.

“He was not wearing a helmet,” he added.

Uong Tha, 45, the victim’s uncle and coworker, who was not in the elevator at the time of the accident, said his nephew had panicked when the elevator began to shake.

“He was so scared because it wasn’t running smoothly like usual, and he tried to jump off,” he said. “But he couldn’t get out and his head got squished in part of the lift’s shaft.”

Kaing Sinoeun’s aunt, Thong Phalla, 45, who also works at the construction site, said she was waiting for the elevator on the 15th floor of the building—which will be more than 30 stories high when complete—at the time of the accident, which occurred when it neared the 14th floor.

“He [Kaing Sinoeun] peeked out of the lift and he got hit by some metal and died immediately,” she said.

Both the victim’s uncle and aunt said they did not know the name of the construction company they had been hired by.

Leng Tong, director of the Labor Ministry’s safety department, could not be reached Wednesday, but has previously said his department does not inspect high-rise construction sites.

The Labor Ministry, while officially responsible for the safety of construction workers, does not have safety codes for laborers or building sites.

Rather, construction firms ostensibly police themselves and face no official consequences for endangering the lives of the day laborers they hire to carry out dangerous tasks with minimal safety equipment.

Nou Nim, director of the municipal labor department, said Wednesday that he was unable to shed any light on the death of Kaing Sinoeun or the construction site where he had worked.

“We do not know about this case,” he said. “The company has to bear responsibility.”

Dave Welsh, country director for the Solidarity Center, a U.S.-based labor rights group, said the government was “quite open” about its inability to control the booming construction industry.

“The construction sector is booming and is almost totally unregulated,” Mr. Welsh said. “The government needs to do a better job of getting in there and developing regulations and enforcing them.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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