Around 106 workers fainted at two garment factories in Cambodia last week from suspected exposure to toxic substances. 

Some 80 workers at a factory owned by Crystal Martin in Kandal Province fainted on Thursday (27 February) after having reportedly been exposed to sulfuric acid from an exploded battery.

But in a statement sent to just-style today, Crystal Martin Cambodia said the employees suffered from 'mass psychogenic illness'.

It started when two workers felt nauseous - reportedly due to the smell caused by the malfunctioning of a machine - and another 30 complained of dizziness. They were sent to hospital for treatment, the company said, adding that production was suspended while the incident was investigated. 

The statement added that the Ministry of Labour provided assistance through its 'Fainting Committee'.  

It concluded the workers suffered from a condition in which a large group of people report similar physical symptoms that are traceable to psychological factors rather than environmental or physiological factors.

"Crystal Group has always attached great importance to worker welfare as we regard our employees as one of our greatest assets," the group noted. 

"We strive to provide the highest health and safety standards in the industry and are committed to 'zero accident' and 'zero injuries'."

The group added that it will work closely with all stakeholders concerned, including government and labour organisations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The factory has now resumed normal operations after the workers have fully recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia confirmed 26 workers fainted at a Shimano (Cambodia) Co factory in the province of Kompong Speu. Press reports said this was due to fumes from the glue used to make shoes.

Factory faintings are widepread in the Cambodian manufacturing industry. According to research released last year, one of the causes could be baseline malnutrition in many Cambodian garment workers.