More than 100 Garment Workers in Two Factories Faint En Masse

More than 100 garment and shoe factory workers fainted in two separate incidents Thursday, the first reported factory faintings of the year, according to local officials.

Eighty-two garment workers fainted at the Crystal Martin factory in Kandal province after inhaling fumes from leaking battery acid, a district official said.

Khieu Sok Narth, the deputy governor of Ksach Kandal district, said the acid began flowing from a battery that powers a crane to lift clothes out of treatment tanks, which caused the workers to faint en masse.

“We have sent some of the workers who fainted to the district referral hospital and some were sent to the [Vihear Sour] commune health center to be revived,” Mr. Sok Narth said, adding that two of the workers were sent to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh because their condition was serious.

“We found the reason that caused the workers to faint—there was poisoned acid water that flowed out of the battery and caused a bad smell,” he said.

He said managers at the Hong Kong-owned Crystal Martin factory, which employs about 3,100 workers, allowed all staff to go home while the spill is cleaned up.

In Kompong Speu province’s Samraong Tong district, 26 workers at the Japanese-owned Shimano shoe factory fainted, which a union official blamed both on the inhalation of glue fumes and low wages.

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said after a few workers began to faint, it set off a domino effect.

“We think the workers were probably poisoned from the glue smell, because this factory used new glue to make shoes after the old glue did not stick,” she said.

“I think low wages are the second reason for the fainting, because the money they earn is not enough to eat proper food, so their health is weak and they cannot handle the bad working environment,” she added.

The affected workers are being treated at the provincial hospital. Speaking by telephone, 35-year-old worker Hun Chanthy said she fainted because of the glue.

“I opened a can of glue and it smelled bad, so I vomited in the bathroom before losing consciousness,” she said.

“I am at the provincial hospital and my health has improved, but I still have a headache,” she said.

The managers at both factories could not be reached.

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