SOUTH Korean-owned Willbes garment factory in Phnom Penh closed its doors for cleaning on Tuesday, a day after hundreds of workers fainted following exposure to a chemical spray.
Pok Vanthat, director of the Labour Health Department at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, confirmed that 414 of the factory’s 1,540 workers fainted on Monday. He also confirmed that the spray involved was a pesticide, although he couldn’t identify which one.
“We found that the factory was spraying chemical pesticide in its warehouse ... to kill insects that might damage the clothes” he said. “[Factories] should use chemicals that present the minimum danger to workers.” An investigation conducted on the day of the incident also found the factory was improperly ventilated.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said factories should be educated in the safe use of chemicals. “Some factories do not even provide masks for workers to wear”, he said.
This is the fourth time in two months that mass fainting has hit garment workers. In early September, 130 workers passed out at the Maurea garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district due to the overuse of pesticides. The same month, 124 workers fainted over the course of several days at nearby Golden Mile factory because of poor ventilation.