Gas smell might have caused mass fainting
About 90 garment factory workers fainted over a two-day period last week at Zhen Tai garment factory in Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune, union officials and police said yesterday, though accounts of what caused the mass fainting differed.
Thirty workers first fainted on Thursday after damage caused to an electrical circuit in the factory produced a strong smell of gas and workers panicked, according to Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union.
“The workers fainted because they smelled gas due to an electrical fault,” Mr Mony said, adding that additional factors may have lead to the fainting, including the fact that workers put in long hours of overtime and “some were shocked when they saw their colleagues fainting.”
The factory was also not equipped with enough emergency exits, Mr Mony said, which made it difficult for workers to evacuate quickly after smelling the gas.
While those who fainted on Thursday were sent for medical treatment, 60 more people fainted on Friday, said Mr Mony, adding that the lingering smell may have caused the fainting on that day. Mr Mony said that he had written a letter to the Ministry of Labor about factory workers fainting, but the government had ignored the issue.
“They are not concerned with what happens to the workers,” he said.
Mak Hong, Sen Sok district police chief, said that the workers had fainted because a machine, or generator, exploded in the factory on Thursday, but he could not offer any further details.
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, declined to comment yesterday, referring questions to another secretary of state, Huy Hansong, who also declined comment. Officials at Zhen Tai could not be reached.
Mass faintings are a common occurrence in Cambodia’s garment factories, with human rights groups and union officials blaming such incidents on a variety of factors including the inhalation of chemicals, bad ventilation, long work hours and sometimes even mass hysteria.