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Buried Alive In Phuket: How Much Longer Do We Need To Suffer The Landslides?


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Buried alive in Phuket: How much longer do we need to suffer the landslides?

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Dirt piled at the side of the trench quickly gave way, trapping and killing Min Hla Thein. Photo: Yodsak Jarana

PHUKET: Another rainy season in Phuket, and yet another death from a landslide. The trench collapse on Monday that killed Burmese laborer Min Hla Thein came just nine days after new workplace 'health and safety' legislation came into effect.

Among the main aims of the new regulations is to make employees legally liable for not following safety requirements laid down by law and company policy.

Anyone in the construction industry would not have to look far to discover that when digging trenches in questionable earth, the first priority is to reinforce the walls to ensure that workers are not crushed by a cave-in.

Whether the lack of reinforcement of the trench walls will be unearthed by the “investigation” into this latest incident remains to be seen, but the news of another landslide death should not have come as a surprise. Phuket’s safety record in this regard speaks for itself.

Last year, project foreman Thawisak Nukaeo and a laborer identified only as “Neung” died while – in a bitter irony – they were building a retaining wall for a resort under construction on Soi Sang Krasee off Nanai Road in Patong.

The other worker caught by the landslide, identified only as “Sorn”, escaped death but was rushed to hospital for serious injuries.

In 2008, three Burmese were crushed by a landslide at a construction site on 50 Pi Road.

In 2007, a landslide off Nanai Rd left buildings hanging precariously while smothering a Burmese laborers’ camp below and trapping an 18-month-old child. Luckily, no one was killed in that incident.

Earlier this monthm guests and staff at the Orchidee Residences in Patong escaped almost certain death when boulders hurtled down from a road construction project high in the hills above them, crashing into the building, uprooting trees and bringing down countless tons of earth.

And just this week, several tumbling boulders threatened Orchidee and its occupants once again, the rocks having originated – again – from the very same construction site. [see story here.]

And all this follows year after year of public warnings and "landslide preparedness” training exercises. How much more warning do we need to stop the construction site carelessness?

One common denominator throughout all these landslides over the years is that the first to suffer are inevitably Phuket's ubiquitous Burmese workers, the unsung heroes of the island's construction boom.

But at least this year there's something new: We have a person’s name to report, not just a nickname or a no-name somebody who paid with his or her life for helping to develop a “Greater Phuket”.

Perhaps now with a new death fresh in people’s minds, contractors might exercise more caution. The least they can do is to build the retaining walls and any other reinforcement barriers first and get on with the rest of the work thereafter.

Whether the island’s developers and contractors will start doing this as an “industry standard" remains to be seen, as does the matter of enforcement of the new regulations.

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-- Phuket Gazette 2011-07-31

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I'm astonished that it is the employees being held responsible for not following rules In real countries it's the employer who shoulders most of the blame, the cost and the appearance in a criminal court. What chance does a poor immigrant worker have if his boss just tells him to ignore the rules? He's caught ( in this example literally!) between a rock and a hard place. As an aside I constantly amused by the 'Safety First' signs at site in Chiang Mai and then I watch the labourers wandering around in flip flops, no hard hats, carefully avoiding sticking up nails and bits falling from above. I also enjoy seeing others wearing hard hats ( ? in case the sky falls in?) while working on new roads and again no foot protection.

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its just about the companies.. if you check projects being built by boat lagoon which is a western style company ran by an educated thai(probably oversea) you will see they have a lot of safety measure. My house is finished(built by boatlagoon) and i checked today and they were REmaking all the windows(remove all the concrete around) because they were not straight to their liking(obviously no extra cost)

and if you drive by the elephant show thing they are building next to the bypass, there is a lot of security measures, a lot of western equipments and a safety guy checking everything.

Of course then you have the municipal projects where they lookl for the cheapest offer to keep as much as they can in their pockets and you get manholes 10foot deep covered by 1inch of gravel

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remember Aberfan..anybody..the west is NOT perfect!

Aberfan was ??? 50 years ago and the tips were even older., We learnt a lot since then. Thailand is I guess about 50 years behind the UK in H+S attitude and may never catch up.

put ?? 50 years as a guess

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its just about the companies.. if you check projects being built by boat lagoon which is a western style company ran by an educated thai(probably oversea) you will see they have a lot of safety measure. My house is finished(built by boatlagoon) and i checked today and they were REmaking all the windows(remove all the concrete around) because they were not straight to their liking(obviously no extra cost)

and if you drive by the elephant show thing they are building next to the bypass, there is a lot of security measures, a lot of western equipments and a safety guy checking everything.

Of course then you have the municipal projects where they lookl for the cheapest offer to keep as much as they can in their pockets and you get manholes 10foot deep covered by 1inch of gravel

Can you distinguish between the quality of the work and the hazards to the workers? they are very different but often related. I found that the best, most profitable companies were also the best at safety: Dupont/ ICI etc, while those disorganised outfits were generally a shambles both at making a profit and safety. Reflect on how things get done here! So yes, a western trained manager be it Thai or Farang will probably have a good safety record and produce good products

edit spelling mistake!

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