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Apple reportedly performed safety inspections hours before 2011 iPad factory blast

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Workers injured in an explosion in Shanghai last year at a supplier factory producing iPads allege that Apple had inspected the plant's safety just hours before the blast occurred.

NPR met last week with 25 workers who had been hurt during the incident, which took place at a Pegatron subsidiary's metal casing factory last December. According to Apple, a total of 61 people were hurt as a result of the blast.

Ignition of aluminum dust was found to be the cause of the explosion. The factory had not yet begun operations and was in the midst of trial production when the accident took place.

A worker at the factory, Zhang Qing, said that, on the day of the incident, the plant's managers had told employees to clean up dust because Apple's inspectors were coming through. According to Liu Hengchao, another worker who was injured in the explosion, the inspectors wore white gloves to check for dust.

Workers were not warned not to talk to them, Liu said. They reportedly spent 10 minutes in the area.

He Wenwen told the publication that he was calibrating a machine used for polishing aluminum backings for the iPad 2 later that day when he saw a "fireball" coming toward him.

"I lost consciousness for a few seconds," he said. "Later, when I opened my eyes, I saw dense smoke and fire everywhere. I felt scared, really scared. I could hear people crying and screaming."

The upper half of He's face was burnt by the fireball. Report author Frank Langfitt wrote he looks as if he's "wearing a bright, red mask."

According to He, dust was a problem at the factory despite the fact that each polishing machine had an exhaust. Workers at the plant wore "very thick" face masks, but their nostrils filled with dust when they removed them. "The air in the factory looked a bit like fog," he said.

He said the factory's vacuuming system wasn't very effective and the facility's windows were sealed shut, while Zhang said employees weren't told that the dust could explode. The workers make a base wage of $200 a month and up to $450 with overtime.

Those who had been injured in the blast told Langfitt at the beginning of last week that they had yet to be contacted by Apple about the incident.

"Later — after NPR contacted Apple — other workers said they finally started receiving calls from the company, checking on their injuries and making sure they'd received compensation, which came to about $800 each," the report read.

The Shanghai explosion was preceded by a similar incident at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China that resulted in four deaths and 18 injuries.


Foxconn workers file down the Apple logo on an iPad component. | Credit: Almin Karamehmedovic/ABC News


Apple wrote in its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report that it was "deeply saddened" by both of the accidents. The company said it reached out to the "foremost experts in process safety" immediately after they occurred to understand what happened. Though the causes of both incidents were found to be different, Apple did confirm that combustible dust was involved in both of the explosions.

The iPad maker says it audited all of its suppliers handling aluminum dust and put "stronger precautionary measures" in place before resuming production. New requirements for work places coming in contact with dust include: ventilation requirements with regular testing; comprehensive inspections of ductwork to identify aluminum dust deposits; a ban on high-pressure compressed air for cleaning; a requirement that all vacuums be rated explosive proof and ensuring that type-D fire extinguishers are on hand to deal with metal fires.

Even as Apple has come under fire from mainstream media outlets and non-profit organizations for worker conditions at its suppliers, the company has taken steps to address concerns. Apple announced in January that it had joined the Fair Labor Association. The FLA began inspections of Foxconn last month. However, one non-governmental organization claims to have spoken with factory workers who said that the manufacturer was ready for the inspections and had preemptively covered up any violations.

FLA President Auret van Heerden said after his first visits to Foxconn's facilities that the operation was "first class" and conditions are "way, way above the average of the norm." He did, however, also say that there are still "tons of issues" that need to be addressed.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 9
Thank God Apple had just completed a safety inspection or the death toll would have been much higher! Also, since the Foxconn management had ran the children out of the area while Apple inspected, no children were killed or injured. It was a miracle I tell you, a miracle!
post #3 of 9
In other news, the news media does not care that simple farming in the US is unsafe because reporters like to eat and don't want to bring to light accidents.

http://news.yahoo.com/fire-officials...021813117.html

The issue with dust and explosions is a tuff one and all it takes is a momentary lapse for things to go from great to disaster. Dust explosions are common place all over the world even when appropriate safety measures are in place.
post #4 of 9
Some things are off with the report. The fact that the windows are sealed is as it should be; you need to control moisture levels to limit combustion risk. Likewise, the white glove inspection is the only way to validate how clean the factory is. It sounds more like the hasty cleanup caused a problem (like a wet mop of the floor or a work area).

It is good for these things to get press, so companies have pressure on them to address these things. But... uncoated aluminum dust is extremely dangerous and handling parts is pretty tricky. It seems like you would be better off with a nitrogen-interted automated line for any activities with high levels of dust concentration.
post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Some things are off with the report. The fact that the windows are sealed is as it should be; you need to control moisture levels to limit combustion risk. Likewise, the white glove inspection is the only way to validate how clean the factory is. It sounds more like the hasty cleanup caused a problem (like a wet mop of the floor or a work area).

Exactly, we don't likely have all the facts.

These reports also like to push the hyperbole with things like mentioning the $800 payout but failing to mention that this might be more than enough to cover what medical bills weren't covered by the factory. Or that this was on top of total coverage and was really just to cover wages lost etc.

ANd what exactly was cleaned up. It's my understanding that aluminum dust is so risky that it doesn't take much to cause even this kind of fire. For all we know something else was a factor in starting the fire and a tiny bit of dust was what caused the fireball. Not some massive pile up that in truth probably would have been like a bomb going off and taken the whole building down killing everyone inside.
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Workers injured in an explosion in Shanghai last year at a supplier factory producing iPads allege that Apple had inspected the plant's safety just hours before the blast occurred.



This story confirms many allegations that have previously been discounted here:

Apple's inspections are PR window dressing.

The factories know that the inspectors are coming, so they hide the evidence and put on a show for the inspectors.

Etc.
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Exactly, we don't likely have all the facts.

We have at least this fact:

Quote:
"The air in the factory looked a bit like fog,"

And this one:

Quote:
the factory's vacuuming system wasn't very effective
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

This story confirms many allegations that have previously been discounted here:

Apple's inspections are PR window dressing.

The factories know that the inspectors are coming, so they hide the evidence and put on a show for the inspectors.

Etc.

I take it you never worked in a factory and have no clue what goes on in manufacturing facilities (unlike some of the previous posters). No inspection is going to guarantee that an accident will not happen, especially when there are people involved. Safety inspections in US plants are also quite often just 'window dressing' as well (not that this is OK, just a fact). Also, the next time someone at a local grocery store or fast food chain that you frequent gets hurt, I want you to go in and pay for their medical expenses and suffering as well. Shouldn't you be held responsible for their safety just like Apple is for Foxconn?
post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

This story confirms many allegations that have previously been discounted here:

Apple's inspections are PR window dressing.

The factories know that the inspectors are coming, so they hide the evidence and put on a show for the inspectors.

Etc.

If that was the rule rather than the exception, we would be seeing stuff like this happening daily. Note that after this happened, Apple responded and changed procedures. That's what you do when you have disasters. Clearly they tried to prepare for an inspection improperly and they created an accident instead. Not to mention that they were dealing with a substance that is already dangerous to handle.

ETA: Honestly for a corporation it is much cheaper to make sure that you maintain safety as much as you can instead of paying out frequently - especially when it makes the news whenever it happens. Foxconn knows that they cannot hide disasters like this in this day in age. You think Foxconn honestly wants their factories to suffer explosions and fires forcing them to shut things down?
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