Thursday, May 26, 2011
On Friday evening, an explosion in Chengdu, China caused partial shutdown of a facility operated by Foxconn, one of the world’s biggest electronics manufacturers and a major supplier to companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony, Apple, Motorola and Nokia. Initial investigations now suggest the explosion was caused by poor ventilation, which lead to high concentrations of combustible dust.
The blast happened at 7:18PM, around the time workers change shifts. A fire followed. Emergency services had control by 7:30PM. At least three people were killed, at least fifteen injured. Foxconn halted production to investigate, saying “All operations at the affected workshop remain suspended and production at all other workshops that carry out similar processing functions have also been halted pending the results of the investigation. All other production operations in our facilities in China continue operating normally.”
On Monday, city officials gave the cause as combustible dust in the air at a polishing workshop. Hong Kong-based labor rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior said they reported aluminium dust problems in March when they reviewed working conditions at Foxconn. After the explosion, they commented that workers were complaining “the ventilation of the department is poor. Workers polish the iPad cases to make them shiny. In the process, there is lots of aluminum (aluminium) dust floating in the air. Workers always breathe in aluminum dust even though they put on masks. When workers take off their cotton gloves, their hands are covered with aluminum dust.”
Foxconn responded by saying the group was trying to “capitalize on the tragic accident” and misrepresented “Foxconn’s commitment to the health and safety of our employees.”
Foxconn is responsible for making iPads and iPhones for Apple. Research group IHS iSuppli said the explosion may cause loss of production of 500,000 iPads during this quarter of the year. They said there is a larger facility in Shenzhen, but it cannot cope with re-compensating the possible loss.