The unexpected explosion that rocked Foxconn’s Chengdu facility on Friday killing three has been blamed upon a build up of combustible dust at the iPad 2 polishing plant. As a two-week old report on factory worker conditions makes clear, though, the dangers of allowing such dust to build-up has been brought to the attention of Foxconn and Apple before.
On May 6th, The Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (or SACOM) released a report on Foxconn working conditions throughout China.
At the Chendu facility, in particular, the report lingers over the “alarming” pccupational health and safety issues caused by huge amounts of airborne dust.
According to the report:
Workers in the polishing department also complain that the department is full of aluminum dust. Even though they have worn gloves, their hands are still covered by dust and so (is) their face and clothes. Some workers comment that ventilation on shop floor should be improved.
“I’m breathing in dust at Foxconn just like a vacuum cleaner. My nostrils are totally black every day,” said one employee.
The picture the report paints at the Chengdu facility is an unhygienic and dangerous one in which dust permeates everything, even through protective clothing, and where employees are often exhausted because of forced overtime. Granted, there’s no warning of explosions here, but even so, a cursory read is enough to make one thing very clear: dust was such a hazard at Chengdu that it was only a matter of time before it killed someone, one way or the other.
Given these conditions, which seem to be long existing and a frequently cited cause of concern at the Chengdu facility, is it any wonder that such a grave accident happened sooner rather than later? Suicides which may or may not be work condition related are one thing, but when people are dying over an issue that Foxconn has been warned in the past about by outside groups, it makes Foxconn appear criminally negligent, if not downright evil.