The government working group studying the phenomenon of mass-fainting in workplaces has identified the major causes of these incidents, which are prone to occurring in factory settings. So far this year, at least three factories have experienced such incidents.

Its findings were announced on December 27 during a meeting at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in Phnom Penh, with the participation of all relevant parties.

Pok Vantha, an adviser to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and head of the working group, said that this year a total of 38 workers had fainted. He observed that these incidents usually began with one or two workers fainting and then the rest following suit.

“The scientific explanations for fainting are numerous and varied, touching on aspects of physics, biology and psychology but the most common proximate causes in these incidents are chemical fumes, poor working conditions and excessive overtime,” he said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, told The Post on December 28 that each year between 1,000 and 1,500 workers faint on the job typically, but the figures for last year showed a steep drop.

“We have also seen negligence on the part of employers. They have their employees working in what amounts to a big metal box with closed doors and windows and little ventilation, which makes them very hot. Adding to the problem, factories often use chemicals improperly causing lingering fumes,” he said.

Thorn said he expects that the ministry will take action against factories which have yet to comply with workplace safety measures and that an inspection of factory conditions should be carried out whenever this incident occurs.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Associations in Cambodia (GMAC), said that among the seven factors identified, GMAC believed that the most common was the psychological factor where one person faints due to biological or environmental reasons and that triggers the rest.

He said many of the factory workers do not eat their meals at regular intervals and do not have enough knowledge or understanding of diet and nutrition which led to a poor overall health condition that eventually causes numerous acute health problems, something that he said was not relevant at all to factory conditions.

“GMAC is a member of the working group to prevent factory fainting and accidents. We have annual information sessions focused mainly on educating and training workers and factory managers in how to prevent these events and how to deal with them if they occur,” he said.