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Factory faintings back on rise

Garment workers receive medical treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital after a mass fainting episode in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
Garment workers receive medical treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital after a mass fainting episode in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Vireak Mai

Factory faintings back on rise

More than 600 workers have fainted on factory floors so far this year, compared with about 800 such incidents over the whole of 2013, a Labour Ministry official said yesterday.

Pok Vanthat, deputy director of the ministry’s labour health department and head of a committee that aims to prevent fainting in factories, told the Post that as of June 3, 663 workers have blacked out on the job, compared with 823 faintings recorded last year.

Vanthat said the hot weather has contributed to a string of incidents in the past few days.

“The weather is extremely hot this year [and] workers cannot stand the heat,” he said.

Enforced overtime, poor working conditions, chemical fumes and instances of psychogenic illness are among other reasons often cited as causes.

In the latest incident, 29 workers at Huey Cheun factory in Meanchey district’s Kbal Koh commune collapsed en masse yesterday – the second incident at the factory in less than a week, Vanthat said.

“We have applied measures like asking them to install more fans.… [But] while implementing [these suggestions], more fainting occurred,” he said.

At Jiun Ye Garment factory in Kampong Chhnang province’s Samaki Meanchey district, 36 workers fainted on Monday.

“Three pregnant ladies also fainted among the workers. It happened because the factory did not turn on the fans,” said Nen Saron, an officer for the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU) based in Kampong Chhnang province.

“According to [Ministry of Labour] principles, factories are required to turn on the fans half an hour before work starts, but the factory wanted to save energy and did not turn the fans on before work commenced. When workers returned from lunch, they went to work immediately and fainted due to extremely hot weather.”

Yesterday, factory floors were empty.

“No workers came to work … because they were still scared,” Saron said.

According to FTU’s own figures, about 500 people have fainted so far this year.

FTU public relations officer Om Dyna said a lack of good nutrition was a major cause.

Mouen Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, agreed.

To solve this problem, “the minimum wage needs to be fixed and factories need to set up meal programmes to give workers free and healthy meals,” Tola said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

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