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PHNOM PENH – More than 2,000 garment factory workers fainted in Cambodia in 2018 according to new government figures. The numbers represent a sizeable rise over the 1,603 faintings in 2017, and this despite increased efforts by the government – and apparel brands – to improve factory conditions. Intense heat is often claimed to be to blame for the faintings, although some researchers have pointed to psychosomatic explanations. A report by the National Social Security Fund in Cambodia claims the main reasons why workers faint are pesticides used in nearby rice fields, strong chemical glues used in the production of footwear, steam from boilers, poor environments near factories, malnutrition, poor ventilation, stress and even the belief in supernatural forces.

The Labour Ministry in Cambodia has now issued an 11-point guideline for factory owners to follow in an attempt to reduce the number of workers passing out. The points include: ensuring a safe environment, providing ventilation fans, opening windows to ensure flow of air, installing thermostats and maintaining firefighting systems.

Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said that his organisation is concerned about the safety of garment workers.

“Hot weather, unsuitable working conditions, lacking calcium and lacking proper eating places can affect the health of workers,” Mr Saly said, adding that the Labour Ministry should continue to push for safety measures to ensure that workers do not faint.

Despite an increase in fainting workers this year, Better Factories Cambodia recently found that more and more factories in the country are complying with its standards when dealing with critical worker issues.

These include child labour, discrimination, forced labour and freedom of association.

In an annual report published earlier this month, BFC highlighted survey findings conducted at 464 factories from May 2017 until June of this year.

It found that compliance of factories had increased from 33 per cent last year to 44 per cent this year after it introduced public reporting in 2014.

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