Nearly 140 workers from six factories at the Vattanac II Industrial Park in Phnom Penh fainted at work on Friday and Saturday, leading the factories to close down for the weekend while they searched for the cause of the incident, officials said.
The faintings began on Friday morning at the industrial park when several dozen workers at the Korean-owned Newpex factory fainted, according to Kraing Pongro commune police chief Toep Bun Then.
Talk among workers and the sight of women being wheeled prostrate out of the factory then sparked a panic and led to faintings at the Taiwanese-owned factories Accasette Garment, Papillion Textile and Moha Garment, and the Chinese-owned Dongdu Textile and Bultext factories.
About 130 women fainted at work on Friday, and an additional eight women at Bultext fainted again on Saturday morning.
“The workers told us that they got fatigue and vomiting after seeing other workers faint,” Mr. Bun Then said. “We are not yet sure the reason why the over 100 workers fainted, but we conclude it was due to the bad smell of glue and other chemicals in the factories.”
Long Sok Hin, the assistant to the administrative director of Accasette Garment, said around 20 workers at her factory fainted, claiming they smelled the unpleasant odor of glue emanating from a nearby factory.
“We decided to close the factory temporarily on Friday and Saturday because we were worried that other workers would faint too,” she said.
She said the affected workers had been treated at a nearby private clinic.
Meng Hong, a member of the Labor Ministry’s fainting prevention and workplace injury committee, said he did not have details on the incident at the Vattanac II Industrial Park, but said the National Social Security Fund would take responsibility for paying for the workers’ treatment.
“Officials from the ministry are still checking on this case,” he said.
Mr. Hong could not provide figures for the number of workers who have fainted so far this year in Cambodia’s factories. A total of 823 workers fainted last year, down from a high of 1,973 in 2011.
Experts have said these incidents are largely due to mass psychogenic illness, which tends to affect women, is sometimes triggered by smelling unpleasant odors, and can be worsened by poor living and working conditions.