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China Labor Watch and authorities probe Apple supplier factory blast, aluminum dust linked to explosion

Local government authorities are investigating last weekend’s explosion that injured 61 people at the Shanghai factory of  an Apple iPad 2 back-panel supplier after much outcry from China Labor Watch.

CLW was founded in 2000, according to their website, and it is an independent not-for-profit organization that has collaborated with unions and labor organizations to assess factories in China.

The Dec. 17 blast at Ri Teng Computer Accessory Co., owned by Taipei-based Pegatron Corp., was similar to the explosion at a Foxconn Technology Group facility in May, according to a Dec. 19 statement from CLW.

“The blast in Riteng is a result of aluminum dust in the workshop where ipad cases are polished,” said CLW in its press release. “A similar blast happened in the same workshop of a Foxconn’s factory in Chengdu, killing 3 workers and hurting another 15.”

CLW said there was “a lot of aluminum dust in the workshop,” but apparently, the workers were not aware of the “potential danger before the blast.”

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration said aluminum dust is highly combustible, according to its online health guidelines. The administration stressed the need to take special precautions in handling the substance in occupational settings.

CLW elaborated in its statement and cited Apple products as being globally popular, however,  the organization added:

There is a sharp contrast between the strong performance of Apple and the poor condition of the workers working on its assembly line in China.

“Li Qiang, the executive director of China Labor Watch, said that Apple cannot sacrifice the Chinese workers to get high profit and Apple should be held liable for the all the accidents happening in its suppliers’ factory in China,” the CLW’s statement concluded.

Businessweek reported that a spokesperson for Apple recently said the technology company is working closely with Pegatron to “understand the cause of the accident” and that their hearts go out to the injured in Songjiang.

Authorities in Songjiang have begun to investigate the Shanghai factory accident, according to their announcement in a Dec. 17 posting on the Sina Weibo micro blogging service.

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