Dozens More Faintings Occur at Factory With No Clear Cause

For the second day in a row on Thursday, more than 60 workers fainted at a Phnom Penh garment factory that supplies Swedish fashion giant H&M.

Officials continued to say that an inspection had revealed no cause for the faintings at the Berry Apparel (Cambodia) factory, which has received a perfect rating for the past three years from Better Factories Cambodia, a U.N. project that monitors garment factories.

Two women walk outside the Berry Apparel (Cambodia) factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Thursday, where two days of fainting episodes occurred. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Tok Vanthat, a doctor and head of the Labor Ministry’s commission for the prevention of fainting, said his team arrived at Berry Apparel on Thursday morning after the second bout of faintings, and had not yet found any environmental causes for the incidents.

“It started with the health problems of three workers who did not feel good,” he said. “They didn’t know how to avoid being seen by other workers, who then saw, felt shocked and also fell down.”

Dr. Vanthat said 77 workers had fainted on Thursday after feeling claustrophobic and nauseous.

An inspection on Wednesday also found no problems, after a mass fainting affected 64 workers, according to the ministry. A union representative had previously said 73 workers had fainted.

Faintings are unusually common in Cambodia’s garment industry, and are often variously attributed to heat, anemia, malnutrition, weakness or spirits.

A study released earlier this year found that faintings occurred most commonly in Cambodian factories when workers experienced situations of heightened fear, which often combined with pre-existing psychological trauma to result in mass faintings.

Dr. Vanthat said the workers’ poor diets had caused the most recent bout of faintings.

“Now, we organized the doctor teams to train them to know about how to take care of their health,” he said, adding that he had given the factory a set of documents to hand out to workers. Workers who had fainted would receive the rest of the week off, Dr. Vanthat said.

Ulrika Isaksson, a press officer from H&M, said on Thursday that the company was monitoring the situation and a local team had visited the factory.

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