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Pegatron workers: Apple toured plant hours before explosion

updated 04:30 pm EDT, Mon March 12, 2012

Report raises questions about inspections

Apple inspected a Pegatron plant building iPad 2s mere hours before an explosion injured at least 59 people, according to workers interviewed by NPR. The number of injured was initially pegged at 61, but Apple currently claims 59. NPR says it met with 25 victims of the blast last week, such as He Wenwen, who was calibrating a machine used to polish iPad 2 backs when the explosion happened.

"I saw a fireball coming towards me," He explains. "I lost consciousness for a few seconds. "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."

Apple blames the explosion on a build up of dust including aluminum particles created during polishing. Pegatron's story is more specific, claiming that the explosion started in equipment collecting the aluminum. He Wenwen comments that while each polishing machine had an exhaust pipe, and the plant had a vacuum system, dust was a constant problem. "We wore face masks, very thick masks," he says. "But when we took them off, our nostrils were full of dust. The air in the factory looked a bit like fog."

Another worker at the Pegatron plant, Zhang Qing, says that neither he nor his colleagues were told about a similar but fatal explosion at a Foxconn iPad plant several months earlier, or that the dust was combustible. Zhang remarks that the day of the Pegatron explosion, managers told subordinates to clean up the dust because Apple inspectors were coming.

Liu Hengchao notes that the inspectors had white gloves to check for dust. "There certainly has to be dust," he says. Factory management told workers not to talk to the inspectors, however, and the inspectors allegedly spent 10 minutes in Liu's area before leaving. Liu comments that if he had been able to speak, would've told the inspectors that "They could improve the environment somewhat, because the environment is too terrible."

Since the Foxconn incident Apple claims to have conducted an investigation and taken steps to avoid future accidents, such as requiring the regular testing of airflow in ventilation systems around combustible dust. The Pegatron workers, though, say that no one at Apple contacted them until after NPR contacted Apple, at which point workers started getting calls checking on injuries and compensation, the latter amounting to about $800 per person.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. JuanGuapo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2008

    +8

    I still don't know...

    …how on earth this has anything to do with Apple, and not Pegatron.

  1. DaJoNel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2010

    +10

    You see here?

    Apple cares about the factory conditions and the workers there. It's the factory managers, etc. who don't care about anything but profit.

  1. vinnieA2

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2005

    +1

    A bit different here...

    In the US, when management willfully compromises safety by deceiving inspectors, federal charges can be filed. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/02/22/147252153/massey-mine-boss-charged-in-deadly-coal-mine-explosion
    In China, it is Apple's fault!

  1. Zanziboy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2008

    +5

    Detailed Process Issues

    How could any outside company monitor such a detailed process on an hourly basis? It is impossible to guarantee the well-being of workers for suppliers as no one has any idea what the company does when no one is looking.

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the five new Foxconn factories in Brazil work out. With more automation and government controls, there may be an opportunity to reduce the dependence on Chinese factories.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +3

    Liquidmetal to the rescue?

    Aluminum dust is 1. highly explosive if floating in the air, and 2. highly toxic if inhaled into the lungs. Maybe it's time Apple switched over to Liquidmetal enclosures for iDevices. There would be little if any machining, hence little or no dust.

    Of course, Liquidmetal is a far more expensive alloy. And it may not be as recyclable as aluminum. More than 80% of the aluminum mined since the 1880s is still in use. And recycling aluminum (re-melting it) takes only 5% of the energy required to refine it from ore. It's infinitely recyclable.

    Apple will need to decide if the recyclability and low cost of aluminum is worth the human cost in its contractors' factories. Greenpeace be damned.

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