It was reported on Tuesday that an investigation by China Labor Watch (CLW) found aluminum dust produced by the polishing of iPad cases as the cause of a blast at Ri Teng Computer Accessory Co., which injured 61 workers on Dec. 17, according to Bloomberg.
CLW, a not-for-profit labor organization, noted that the recent explosion at Ri Teng was similar to that of an accident at Apple supplier Foxconn's Chengdu factory. In both cases, the blasts were located in a section of the factory that handles the polishing of the iPad's aluminum chassis.
The source of the Foxconn accident was never conclusively established, however Apple's largest Chinese manufacturer said it was probably "combustible dust" that caused the explosion that left 3 dead and 15 injured.
It is unclear whether the accidents are related or merely coincidental, however CLW alludes that the events could be part of a larger supply chain problem, and claim that Apple suppliers have little control over their operations as they must adhere to strict guidelines set by the Cupertino, Calif. company.
Interviews conducted by CLW with factory managers reveal that the tech giant has "systematic control" over plant operations, including the design and implementation of the assembly line. If all of Apple's Chinese suppliers' plants have identical layouts, the recent explosions could point to a fundamental flaw in the supply chain.
However, CLW fell short of saying the the Ri Teng iPad polishing facility was a replica of Foxconn's, saying only that both factories were in the process of "expanding their production capacity and trying to win more orders from Apple when the blast occurred."
According to a post on the Sina Weibo microblogging service, local officials in the Songjiang area of Shanghai have already begun an investigation at Ri Teng, though the government has yet to release a preliminary report.