MASS FAINTING IN FACTORIES

Some of the world's leading sportswear manufacturers such as Nike, Puma and Asics have been plagued by mass amounts of workers fainting at their factories in Cambodia. The incidents of fainting are not one-offs, and have not been resolved despite their ongoing occurrence. Cambodia is home to four of the  factories which are large producers of sportswear and footwear for the well-know brands, as well as brands from VF Corporation, who owns Vans, Timberland, Wrangler and JanSport.

During the past year, it is reported as many as 500 workers, from the four factories in question were hospitalised, and over a 3 day period 360 workers fainted. There are also reports of mass fainting as far back as 2014, which indicate that the problem is on-going, and the resolution is slow. The cause seems to be long work hours (most of the women involved were working ten hour days, six days a week), hunger, over-tiredness, exposure to fumes, stress, and excessive heat. Cambodia has no legal maximum temperature for their factories, unlike neighbouring Vietnam where temperatures are not allowed to exceed 32℃. Despite Cambodian employers being encouraged to invest in fans and air conditioning, it is not legally required. Often the chemicals used in production are also a cause of losing consciousness - along with poor ventilation. The reason for the long hours worked seems to stem from short term contracts which most employers use, which means that workers face difficulty in refusing to work overtime, as that could be used as a reason to shorten their contract. Some experts point to the stress of the low wages, unfair worker treatment and income insecurity as the root of the problem, with fainting occurring due to the workers' extreme mental distress. Other incidents include smoke filling a factory which produced Puma sportswear, after an explosion caused mass panic and several workers fainted during the rush to exit the building.

Puma have responded to these reports by suggesting changes for the factory to implement. These include offering free medical checks, making nutritional energy bars available to workers, giving long-term employees full-time contracts, and improving ventilation.

Cambodia's garment industry was valued at $5.7b in 2015.