About 70 workers fainted yesterday at Hung Wah Cambodia Garment Mfg, a factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district, bringing the number of factory-related mass faintings in Cambodia over the past year to at least nine.
“I visited the factory where 60 to 70 workers fainted, and we have ordered” an investigation, said district police chief Born Sam Ath.
Mass fainting among garment and other factory workers is a well-known phenomenon in Cambodia. There have been at least three major faintings so far this year, including the case in April of more than 100 employees fainting at the Huey Chen shoe factory in Phnom Penh.
German sportswear company Puma, a buyer from the factory, concluded that incident was due to “excessive hours of work as well as multiple health and safety violations stemming from inadequate health and safety management systems.” However, the causes of large-scale faintings are complex, with some experts attributing them to mass hysteria.
Soem Sokheng, a 25-year-old factory worker, said her colleagues began fainting at about 10 am. “I don’t know the reason why everyone fainted, but before I did, I felt shocked and was exhausted immediately,” said Ms Sokheng.
Leav Chhay Meng, Hung Wah factory’s office manager, said at least 41 people had “gone into a coma” while sewing T-shirts.
“One or two people fainted first, so I opened the door and let the workers leave, but some others saw the workers in a coma and then they felt sick too,” Mr Chhay Meng said, attributing the incident to a lack of sleep due to a fire at a nearby market the night before.
Kong Athit, secretary-general of the Cambodia Labor Confederation, said some factories use “chemicals, which affect the workers’ health.”
Mr Chhay Meng said the factory has a cooling system and that workers are not exposed to chemicals.
Bun Ying, a communications officer with Better Factories Cambodia, said a monitoring team would be dispatched to Hung Wah factory to gather information about working conditions.