More than 100 workers of Shenzhou garment factory in Phnom Penh fainted Thursday, one day after a similar mass fainting at the same factory.
The first workers fainted at about 8 a.m., setting off a chain reaction that sent the entire workforce running from the factory in fear. The Cambodian Legal Education Center, a rights group, said 118 workers were hospitalized.
“People started to have chest pains and stomachaches, and then, when the people started fainting, we all ran outside because we were so scared that the air was poisoned,” said Thy Thoeun, who fainted Wednesday and returned to work Thursday, only to carry her ill sister from the factory.
On Wednesday, 61 workers fainted at Shenzhou, which is in the Vattanac Industrial Park in Pur Senchey district.
“There are no fans and no air conditioning inside,” Ms. Thoeun said. “It is so hot and it makes your body feel strange and heavy.”
Doctors, nurses, factory staff and the district governor all had different explanations for the mass fainting on Veng Sreng street. However, all agreed that the workers had been subject to low light and poor ventilation.
Dr. Sen Dinei, whose Ekreach Clinic was filled to capacity with 50 fainters Wednesday and Thursday, said it was impossible to tell exactly what had caused the women to faint, but that poor nutrition was definitely a factor.
“Some of the women are suffering from dehydration. Some have diarrhea and some have vomited,” Dr. Dinei said.
“Most of them we treat with [intravenous saline drips] and oxygen and after four hours they are better. Some we have tested for hypoglycemia and found that they have an electrolyte disorder.”
Pur Senchey district governor Khem Sun Soda said that conditions in the Chinese-owned factory were to blame. On Wednesday, his immediate superior blamed the faintings on workers drinking too much at a party the night before.
“The National Social Security Fund told the factory that they need to reorganize so the conditions are not so hot for workers,” he said. “Doctors don’t know why they fainted, but the NSSF has requested that the workers stay away from the factory until Monday.”
Representatives of the factory could not be reached by phone Thursday. Managers approached at the factory declined to comment.
Shenzhou, which reportedly supplies global sportswear giant Adidas, is at least the third factory to have experienced mass faintings in 2014. In all three factories, fainting has occurred for two consecutive days.
Last year, 823 workers fainted at 15 separate factories, while in 2012, 1,686 workers fainted at 24 factories.
Dr. Choeun Leap, who treated 18 Shenzhou staff at Pochentong Referral Hospital on Thursday, said that the sight of someone fainting could have caused the domino effect seen Thursday and in the two previous episodes of 2014.
“In English, we call it general malaise,” Dr. Leap said. “We don’t know exactly what caused the first woman to faint—it could be anything—but when people work in these conditions, and one person faints, when people see that, they start to faint also.”
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