According to The Cambodia Daily, eighty-two workers at Crystal Martin factory in the Kandal province lost consciousness after inhaling fumes from leaking battery acid. The acid started flowing from a battery that powers a crane which pulls clothes from treatment tanks.
Khieu Sok Narth, the deputy governor of Ksach Kandal district told Cambodia Daily, “We found the reason that caused the workers to faint–there was poisoned acid water that flowed out of the battery and caused a bad smell.”
Factory managers at the Hong-Kong-owned factory that employs 3,100 workers sent staff home for the day while the spill was cleaned up.
In an unrelated incident, twenty-six workers at Japanese-owned Shimano shoe factory fainted from inhaling glue fumes.
Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions said the workers fainted because of the glue and their low wages.
“We think the workers were probably poisoned from the glue smell, because this factory used new glue to make shoes after the old glue did not stick,” Cambodia Daily reported. She added, “I think low wages are the second reason for the fainting, because the money they earn is not enough to eat proper food, so their health is weak and they cannot handle the bad working environment.”
Workers from both factories were hospitalized for care where necessary.
This isn’t the first time that Cambodian factory workers have fainted en mass. In 2011, close to 300 workers at M&V International Manufacturing Ltd garment factory that was producing goods for Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) fainted from chemical exposure over a two-day period.
An H&M spokesperson had said the root cause of the faintings was hard to pinpoint, but investigators ultimately concluded there was a “strong possibility” that the workers fainted due to chemical exposure, poor ventilation and exhaustion from overwork.
Cambodia has been in an ongoing battle for better wages and working conditions and they have most recently refused to work overtime in hopes of compelling factory owners to increase the minimum wage.
Massive protests are scheduled for mid-March and both workers and labor union leaders have said they will continue to act until the government raises wages.