Thirty-eight workers fainted at a garment factory in Kompong Speu province on Wednesday after the factory reopened its doors following the collapse of 14 workers on Monday due to the building being fumigated Sunday night, officials said.
Wednesday’s mass fainting occurred at around 7:30 a.m. at the Ricotex Industrial factory in Kong Pisei district, according to district governor Ma Savath.
“They had just been working for about half an hour and they felt unwell and subsequently started fainting,” Mr. Savath said.
“The reason is because of pesticide fumigation, and after the fainting our officials went to check and found that there is still a smell of pesticide after the factory sprayed it to kill insects.”
However, Chek Borin, director of the provincial labor department, said he believed the second mass fainting, which included two of the initial 14 who collapsed on Monday, was due to mass hysteria.
“Maybe our workers still did not feel clearheaded and still felt shocked, so when…they saw others fall down, they felt shocked and began breathing heavily,” he said. “It is not due to poisoning.”
Long Visay, chief of administration at Ricotex, also blamed on Wednesday’s incident on psychological factors.
“I recognize the problem on Monday happened because we didn’t give enough time [after spraying the pesticide] but today the problem is not because of the pesticide,” he said. “I think it is because of the feelings of the workers.”
He said the workers who fainted on Wednesday would be allowed to return to work on Monday while the rest of the factory’s roughly 1,400 employees would be expected to work today.
In a similar incident in Kompong Speu last week, more than 100 workers collapsed over two days following a fumigation of the Cerie Cambodia Garment factory.
Mass faintings are a regular occurrence in Cambodia’s factories, and are widely believed to be a form of mass psychogenic illness.