Another garment factory within the International Lab-our Organisation’s Better Factories program was hit by a mass fainting incident yesterday.
More than 50 employees of Heart Enterprise (Cambodia) Co Ltd began collapsing soon after starting their shift at the facility, in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district.
“Some women got weak in the knees and fell, some started choking, and for others their hands and legs began trembling and shaking before they fell,” Un Dara, president of the Independent Union Federation, said.
The women were taken to the Bek Chan Health Centre and Kossamak Hospital, with the most serious cases sent to the latter.
Nhoem Srey Touch, 22, who was treated at Bek Chan Health Centre, said she began choking and her limbs went numb. She said she also panicked when women around her began collapsing.
“I was so terrified I lost consciousness,” she said.
Chhorn Sokha, an investigator with the Community Legal Education Center’s labour program, said some workers at Heart Enterprise had blamed poor air circulation in the factory for the faintings.
An inspection by officials from the ministries of labour, social affairs and health had found that ventilating fans were blocked, air circulation was poor and workers were fatigued from working too much overtime, Yi Kithana, deputy director-general of the Labour Ministry’s occupational health department, said yesterday.
He said the factory was required to make several changes, including removing all materials blocking ventilating fans and windows and ensuring that workers were not forced to work overtime, before it could open again.
The mass fainting incident follows several others last month, including two incid-ents last week at a factory in Kampong Chnnang that supplies global brand H&M.
The Swedish-based comp-any has been quick to respond to the incident. Yesterday, it told the Post it had hired an external expert to conduct an investigation that would begin within a week.
“The investigation . . . will seek to include all relevant stakeholders in the data coll-ection and following analysis,” a spokesman for the company said.
The ILO’s Better Factories program has been conducting investigations.
Tuomo Poutiainen, its chief technical adviser, said yesterday he was not sure there was “a single common denominator” in the wave of faintings, but added: “The garment industry is unfortunately known for long working hours, generally 10 hours a day.
“In the cases we have investigated, long working hours and [poor] nutrition are present. The trigger factors may differ from case to case, and we are looking deeply into this to find the causes and a solution.”
Poutiainen also said Cambodia’s garment industry was experiencing swift growth.
“Orders rose by 30 to 35 per cent in the first five months of this year. This could impact the issue of working hours.”
Poutiainen declined to identify which brands Heart Enterprise supplies. “The ILO does not release the name of the brands the factories supply. Our concern is the welfare of workers,” he said.
But he added: “The brands are very concerned. We are in contact with many of them about these incidents.”