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Overwork caused faintings

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Garment worker Keopich Panha, 19, sits in the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital last April following a mass fainting at a factory producing Puma goods in Phnom Penh.

An independent inves-tigation has found that overwork and negligent health and safety practices were responsible for an episode of mass faintings in April at a factory supplying international sportswear giant Puma.

In a statement dated June 16, Puma said the investigat-ion had found that breaches of the company’s occupational health and safety regulations had caused 101 workers to faint at the Heuy Chuen fact-ory in Chom Chao district.

“The breaches of these standards include excessive hours of work as well as mult-iple occupational health and safety violations stemming from inadequate health and safety management systems, poor communications systems and understaffing of the department responsible for implementation of safety practices,” the statement read.

“Puma takes these findings very seriously and has carefully looked into the recommendations given in the independent investigation, noting the issues that were found in our own investigat-ion as well as new issues identified in the report.”

Kerstin Neuber, a spokeswoman for Puma, declined via email to comment more specifically on the causes of the fainting mentioned in the report. The statement said the investigation had focused on whether the faintings may have been due to “poor ventilation, poor chemicals management and excessive working hours”.

The investigation report is set to be released in full by the Fair Labour Association in the near future.

Neuber said Puma had no plans to stop sourcing products from Heuy Chuen and would work with the factory to address the issues raised in the investigation.

“PUMA remains committed to sourcing in Cambodia, and in fact we are working with Better Factories Cambodia which is an [International Labour Organisation] programme that monitors garment factories there,” she said.

Tuomo Poutiainen, the manager of the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia project, said yesterday he did not have information on the incident, but that exposure to chemicals in shoe factories could pose health risks because of the large amounts of glue used in the manufacturing process.

“Every time these issues occur, it just pinpoints the fact that occupational health and safety needs to be taken more seriously,” he said.

Heuy Chuen representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA

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