According to Reuters, chief financial officer of Pegatron, Charles Lin, said that while there had been no fire at the metal casing factory belonging to Riteng Computer Accessory Company, the gas explosion had resulted in 23 workers requiring hospital treatment.
“The factory has not started operations yet. Part of the facility is still under pre-operation inspection and part is running trial production,” Lin said.
Responding to the incident, Apple said in an emailed statement: “Our hearts go out to the people who were hurt in Songjiang. We are working closely with Pegatron to understand the cause of this accident.”
Taiwan-based DigiTimes reported that Riteng’s facility was being extended for the production of metal casings used in slim notebooks, with Pegatron hoping to become one of the top three suppliers alongside Catcher Technology and Foxconn.
The incident at Riteng’s facility once again draws attention to concerns about safety at China-based factories supplying major electronics companies around the world with many of the parts used in computers and mobile devices.
In May this year an explosion at a factory in Chengdu operated by Apple supplier Foxconn killed three people and injured 15. More recently, Catcher Technology was ordered to close a facility in China making cases for Mac notebooks because of pollution concerns.
Suicides allegedly brought on by harsh working conditions have also been a problem at some plants – in July a Foxconn employee fell to his death in mysterious circumstances at one of the companies dormitories in Shenzhen, southern China, while in May it was reported that the same company was getting its workers to sign a “no suicide” pledge following the deaths of 14 employees over the last couple of years.
Of course, if Foxconn succeeds with its plans to build a robotic workforce in the coming years, employee suicides would be a thing of the past and any explosions would at least only result in a bit of twisted metal rather than any human casualties. But of course many of the people replaced by robotic technology would prefer to be employed and take the risk rather than have no job at all.
Foxconn, which employs over a million people, claims to have increased wages and improved working conditions for its workers in the last year.