The number of workers fainting in garment and footwear factories halved in 2013, a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) report released last week claims – a decline the Ministry of Labour puts down to increased education.
The NSSF, which is part of the ministry, recorded 823 incidents of workers fainting last year, down from 1,686 in 2012. The government recorded 1,973 workers fainting in 2011.
The majority of last year’s cases occurred between January and April and July and October, “when the factories receive most orders from buyers” and overtime peaks, the report says.
Other causes, it continues, include mass psychogenic illnesses marked by dizziness, vomiting and shortness of breath; insufficient diet; and poor factory conditions.
Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng said a factor in reducing fainting had been the NSSF educating workers.
“The ministry has paid much attention to fainting,” he said. “No country . . . can make workplace accidents drop to zero.”
But Sam Heng also said factories needed to limit overtime to two hours per day. “Some workers are agreeing to work more overtime secretly,” he said. “We appeal for regulations to be followed.”
Joel Preston, a consultant for Community Legal Education Center, said he wasn’t aware of exact fainting figures for 2013, but had noticed a decline.
The minimum wage increase last March, from $61 to $75 per month, had likely helped reduce fainting, he said.
“We’ve been saying for years that there is a link with wages,” he said. “If we’re able to get it up to a living wage, we could eliminate [fainting] altogether.”
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said many factories had not improved working conditions and fainting remained a concern. “Even the drinking water is not good, and overtime is still forced,” he said.
Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, doubted the decline could be attributed to a specific factor.
“They cannot really find the cause. Any reduction, you can’t credit to [one thing],” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL