PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – At least 22 female garment workers collapsed at their factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday, in the latest mass faintings incident.
The exact number of workers who fainted could not be immediately confirmed. The cause is still being investigated, but Dr. Veag Vuthy, at the Porng Toeuk Health Center, told Khmer Times the most likely reasons were “toxic odors” or low blood sugar.
One or two of the women collapsed first and that triggered a chain reaction among co-workers, the Ministry of Labor said in a statement. The incident occurred at a factory owned by Moha Garment Company on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
It supplies Target stores in the United States and Canada as well as the department store chain Kohl’s, according to shipping data.
One of those who collapsed told Khmer Times from her bed at the Porng Toeuk health center when she saw others fainting first. “I didn’t know why I fainted,” she said, asking not to be identified. “But when I saw the people around me fainting and heard a lot of other workers also fainted, I became afraid. I had trouble breathing and then I fainted too.”
Another woman said some workers had gone to other centers for medical help.
“I saw the factory’s medical center was full,” she said, also asking not to be named. “Some other people were taken away by car to other health centers.”
The ministry said 14 workers were sent to Heang Mony Vuth Hospital and eight to Porng Toeuk Health Center. But the total is unclear. Many people were taken for treatment in cars.Dr. Veag Vuthy put the number at his center at 13, higher than the Ministry’s figure.
Dr.Veag Vuthy said such incidents were made worse because many factory workers did not eat properly, did not get enough sleep and had low blood sugar, making them weak and prone to collapse. “I know I have a lot of workers fainting and coming here for help in this area,” he said. “Most of the factory workers in this area live far away from the factory. They have to get up early and come in to work and stay up late because they live so far away. You ask them what time they travel and they just look unhappy. They say they never sleep. Some come all the way from Takeo province,” the doctor said.
Factory management did not respond to requests for comment. The ministry said it would investigate.
Mass faintings at garment factories in Cambodia are frequent. In one week last month more than 400 workers collapsed. The Labor Ministry said at least 1,800 workers fainted in 24 factories last year.
The International Labor Organization recently concluded that the mass fainting incidents were caused by a combination of factors. These include poor nutrition, lack of ventilation and air circulation in factories, and excessive overtime.
A report by Better Factories Cambodia last year found that more than 40 percent of garment workers suffered from anemia.