Almost 150 garment factory workers from two Phnom Penh factories fainted late last week after inhaling toxic fumes used to treat clothes, workers and union leaders said yesterday.
The mass faintings came as the Clean Clothes Campaign and Community Legal Education Center released an evaluation report on garment factory watchdog Better Factories Cambodia, highlighting the poor occupational health and safety standards that plague the industry.
Free Trade Union official Oum Lina said more than 100 workers from Hi Fashion in the capital’s Sen Sok district were rushed to state hospitals and private clinics on Friday.
She said the workers fainted three times throughout the day before they were whisked away for medical treatment.
An employee at Hi Fashion, who declined to be named, said that when she went to work on Saturday, about 50 employees fainted again.
“The environment in the factory is stuffy, hot and there is a very bad smell emitting from the clothes.”
The worker said she had alerted management to the toxic vapours days earlier, but her concerns were ignored.
Meanwhile, 36 workers at Conpress Holding Industrial in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district fainted on Thursday and Friday.
“There are several reasons for the faintings – inadequate ventilation, noxious chemicals, malnutrition, long working days,” said Better Factories Cambodia technical adviser Jill Tucker.
“The unions and GMAC and employers are all in agreement that there needs to be food provision in the factories as there are in many other countries.”
Heng Virak, Hi Fashion administrative manager, said poor ventilation had caused the workers to lose consciousness, but the company would improve the workplace with fans.
To contact the reporters on this story: Mom Kunthear and Claire Knox at [email protected]