A National Social Security Fund (NSSF) working group for the prevention of on-site fainting and work-related accidents and an Olive Apparel garment factory representative claimed on Wednesday that the case, in which some 60 workers fainted, was caused by the smell of engine oil emanating from Sreng Raksmey Company located next to the factory.
The company has promised to solve the issue.
Six members of the working group investigated the case and presented their findings in a report. Olive Apparel (Cambodia) Co Ltd is located in Chaom Chao II commune’s Prey Kambot village in Por Sen Chey district.
It employs 2,623 workers – 2,356 of whom are female. The report said 59 workers – one of whom is male – fainted one after another between Saturday and Sunday.
After the incident, a factory team of experts and the NSSF working group investigated the case and found that the incident was caused by the odour of engine oil coming from Sreng Raksmey Company, which delivers stones and sand. However, the victims’ conditions were not serious.
The report said that several workers claimed to feel emotional stress and panic attacks, and then fell over unconscious. After the incident, the factory director halted production and sent the victims to clinics – 26 workers were sent to Moul Met Clinic, five to Lam Bunthan Clinic, 27 to Heang Monivuth Clinic, and one to Sovandy Clinic.
Olive Factory administration assistant Tiem Ly told The Post on Wednesday that it was an odour from Sreng Raksmey Company that caused the workers to feel dizzy and faint, and not because of inadequate airflow within the factory.
“Immediately following the incident, I saw a broadcast saying that it [the incident] was because of an unpleasant smell in the factory, but actually that’s not true."
“It was Sreng Raksmey Company which was repairing vehicles and spilt some oil on the ground, and they swept the old motor oil up near the fence, into the gutter. Then the smell spread here. It was so hard to breathe,” Ly said.
Por Sen Chey district police chief Yim Saran said all the victims are feeling better.
“They returned to work this morning and the authorities have nothing new to share either. During the incident, they had their experts investigate the case, but I don’t know what information they received,” said Saran.
Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Labour and Vocational Training director Chuon Vuthy on Wednesday declined to comment on the matter.
Rights and Profit Workers Federation of Trade Unions director Deth Chenda urged Sreng Raksmey Company to solve the issue and find a way to eliminate the smell.
The company’s representative, Sorn Saroeun, said in the report that the company will solve the problem, manage engine-repair and dispose properly of engine oil to avoid unpleasant smells from spreading and causing unexpected fire accidents due to hot weather or an un-extinguished cigarette butt.
He suggested the factory extend its exhaust pipe higher to reduce noise and smoke, which have affected the factory.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thorn told The Post on Monday that his organisation has no agent in the factory, but he watched the incident on the news. He expressed concern that factory conditions have not improved.
He said that despite previous criticisms from unions, fainting cases occur every year. The union asked the factory owner to properly restructure the factory to have enough air circulation and maintain a pleasant smell. It also urged that eating facilities should be sanitary as well.
“The preventative measures is the law in practice, which is the way factories and enterprises can be required to be built based on standards."
“For instance, we need to give plenty of consideration to lighting, heat and height or whatever must be done to allow the circulation of enough ventilation. If they don’t operate accordingly, we will shut one or two companies. Then they will all follow [the law],” Thorn said.