Figures released by the Ministry of Labor on Friday showed that 1,578 garment factory workers fainted in workplace incidents since the beginning of this year.
Pok Vanthat, deputy director of the Labor Ministry’s Medical Unit and chief of its research committee, said that his committee had inspected factory sanitation and safety, chemicals in the workplace, and factory layout in their examination of the fainting phenomena.
Eight factories in total had fainting incidents in the first nine months of this year: seven in Phnom Penh and one in Kampong Chhnang province, according to the ministry.
“The main causes that make workers faint are insecticides, smoke, high temperatures, stress and manual labor of lifting and storing,” Mr Vanthat said.
The ministry outlined short-term emergency measures and long-term strategic measures to address and alleviate the problem.
Short-term measures include immediate follow-ups in affected factories, taking immediate action to fix technical problems in the factories and official checks prior to the re-opening of a factory following a mass fainting.
In the longer term, the ministry has created an inter-ministerial task force in association with the ILO’s better factories to monitor incidents.
Huy Han Song, secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, also announced the establishment of a 24-hour hotline telephone, backed by the National Social Security Fund, which factories can call in case of a fainting emergency.
Earlier this week the phenomenon of mass fainting in Cambodian garment factories was addressed at an International Labor Organization meeting in Phnom Penh, with international retailers expressing “the need for immediate action on behalf of the welfare of the workers.”
The meeting-attended by representatives from more than 24 global clothing brands including Gap, H&M and Puma-resulted in a collaborative pledge to support an investigation into the mass fainting, the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia said in a statement.
Tuomo Poutiainen, chief technical adviser of Better Factories Cambodia, said that the ILO is taking the lead in the investigation of the fainting, bringing in experts on areas of industrial hygiene and public health.
“[Garment] industry standards are high on entitlements,” said Mr Poutiainen, but there remain concerns about “safety, health and working hours.”
Mr Poutiainen added that there needed to be a “full investigation into the psychological issues [regarding the fainting] around which there is so much speculation.”
(Additional reporting by Alice Burke)