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Fire trucks blamed in fainting

More than 100 workers fainted yesterday at the Hung Wah (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, sparking debate over whether chemicals or exhaustion were to blame.

Police chief of Dangkor district Born Sam Ath said yesterday the workers collapsed at the factory in Chaom Chao commune after just one hour of work and were then taken to hospital.

“It’s because they didn’t eat or sleep enough,” he said. “Annoyance from fire trucks that were extinguishing a fire at a nearby market last night just made them exhausted when they came to work in the morning, leading them to faint like this.”

But 19-year-old Hung Wah employee Ou Sarath said yesterday she thought insecticides sprayed in the factory on Sunday were to blame, adding she had seen several security guards fainting previously.

“I saw some co-workers becoming pale, later they felt faint and after a while others began fainting continuously and became panic-stricken,” she said of the mass faint.

Leav Chhay Meng, director of Hung Wah garment factory, denied yesterday that his company had sprayed pesticides that would cause people to lose consciousness. “The factory doesn’t do like that, but [the faintings] may be because the workers did not sleep enough last night,” he said, adding the company would investigate and pay for the workers’ medical expenses. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has vowed to investigate.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation into a mass fainting at a shoe supplier for Puma has found a strong possibility the incident was caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals and excessive working hours and identified a litany of abuses of the Labour Law. In April, it was reported that about 300 workers had fainted at Huey Chuen factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district and were taken to hospital over a two-day period.

The report by the Fair Labour Association, made public this week, found that on three occasions workers at the Huey Chuen factory felt pressured to work 24-hour shifts and that the company was using hazardous chemicals banned by Puma.

“There were multiple breaches of the Cambodian Labour Law found” the report stated. “For example hours of work, number of consecutive days of work, multiple occupational health and safety issues including chemical storage and use, machine safety, clinic facilities, lighting, heat and welfare facilities.”

Him Phalla, administration manager at Huey Chuen, said yesterday he accepted the criticisms made in the report and would meet with buyers in Germany at the end of this month to discuss how they were remedying the problem.

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