More than 40 garment workers in Kompong Speu province fainted on Monday morning when they arrived for work only 14 hours after the factory had been fumigated, officials said.
The 44 workers who fainted, all women, fell ill shortly after they began the day’s work at the newly-opened Cerie Cambodia Garment factory, which employs 700 workers mostly producing ladies’ underwear, according to Chek Borin, director of the provincial labor department.
“When they got to their workplaces, they started having difficulty breathing and felt weak and subsequently fainted one by one,” Mr. Borin said.
He said the first workers who fainted were taken outside to recover, panicking those still arriving for the 7 a.m. shift and causing more faintings.
He blamed the incident on factory management for its handling of the fumigation of the facility the night before.
“They should have turned on the ventilation fans and opened the windows at least one hour before letting workers come into work,” he said.
He said the women who fainted were all taken to a local clinic, and those most seriously affected were sent on to the provincial hospital.
Chuob Sokchea, 36, one of the workers who fainted, also blamed the fumigation.
“I saw workers open the door and windows and smelled pesticide,” she recalled, adding that smoke had escaped from the building “like fog.”
“I don’t know when I fainted, but when I awoke I was at the clinic already,” she said.
Chaing Lily, an assistant manager at the factory, which closed on Monday following the incident, declined to comment on what caused the faintings, but said the factory was supporting its workers.
“If tomorrow they are still not better, following a medical evaluation we will let them continue to take more rest,” she said.
Provincial health department director Or Vanthen said a total of 19 workers had been sent to the provincial hospital complaining of breathing difficulties, but were recovering quickly.