Indian iPhone plant found 'highly hazardous' to workers' health in previously secret report

An Indian iPhone factory operated by Foxconn was temporarily closed back in 2021 due to serious health issues on the premises for workers, including the presence of rats, food infested with worms, toilets without running water.

Now we learn for the first time about the results of a subsequent government audit, which revealed many more safety violations within the plant itself, some of which were described as “highly dangerous”; employee health …

What was already known

The original report concerned the standards of dormitories provided to seasonal migrant workers on iPhone production lines. Apple sent its own inspectors, confirmed the unacceptable standards, and ordered the plant to be closed until the problems were resolved.

Apple locates Foxconn plant in southern India is on probation after worker protests and investigation that found poor living conditions […]

“Following recent concerns about food safety and living conditions at Foxconn Sriperumbudur We have appointed independent auditors,” an Apple spokesperson said. said. “We have found that some of the remote dormitories and cafeterias used for staff do not meet our requirements, and we are working with the supplier to ensure a comprehensive set of corrective actions are implemented quickly.”

Follow-up reports revealed the horror of some of the conditions found.

For the women who assembled iPhones at the Foxconn plant in southern India, crowded dormitories with no flush toilets and food sometimes infested with worms were a hassle to endure for the sake of a paycheck.

But when spoiled food made more people sick, than 250 workers, their anger turned into a rare protest that shut down the plant where 17,000 people worked […]

Workers slept on the floor in rooms that housed between six and 30 women, five of them said these workers. Two workers said the dormitory they lived in had toilets without running water.

Unpublished report cites numerous health hazards.

At least four different government agencies have sent inspectors to the plant, including the Tamil Nadu Industrial Safety and Health Authority, which covers the region in which the plant is located. That report was never published, but TIME has now obtained access to a copy.

The report details literally hundreds of security breaches at the Indian iPhone plant.

The audit found that six workers whose job involved hand-soldering iPhone parts were “not provided with protective equipment,” including safety glasses, chemical-resistant gloves or respirators, according to a letter sent by a Foxconn government inspector, a copy of which was reviewed by TIME. In the areas of the plant where soldering was carried out, the inspection found that the ventilation system was insufficient to prevent “the leakage and spread of toxic fumes into the working environment.” This soldering process, the letter said, “is very dangerous to the health of workers.”

In another part of the factory, an inspector found that workers were “not provided with suitable eyewear to protect their eyes from excessive light and infrared radiation.” It identified 77 pieces of automated equipment whose doors were missing important “lockout” mechanisms to prevent operation in hazardous conditions, as well as 262 instances of missing safety devices on pressing equipment. The absence of these protective mechanisms, the letter states, creates a risk of bodily harm. And six large industrial ovens used to attach tiny electrical components to iPhone circuit boards, the letter says, were not “inspected by a competent person” before factory workers were required to use them.

Numerous violations of both state law and Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct were found, which also included illegal working hours, further putting workers at risk due to fatigue. Contract workers do not receive sick leave or paid vacation.

Foxconn and Apple say problems were resolved

Foxconn said all the issues raised in the report had been resolved:

“We took action and resolved every issue government raised issues as a result of the audit,” a Foxconn spokesperson said in a statement to TIME, without specifying what the issues were.

Apple repeated this and said the company has significantly increased the frequency of its audits.

“The issues at Foxconn Sriperumbudur were investigated and resolved a year and a half ago and we have placed the facility on probation,” the spokesman said. in a statement to TIME in May. “During this period, Foxconn invested in significant improvements, and through quarterly and sometimes weekly audits, Apple and independent auditors monitored significant facility upgrades through frequent visits and interviews with employees.”

Worth reading full article, which also discusses differences in pay and working conditions.

Photo: Siora Photography/Unsplash

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