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China urges Foxconn to ensure worker safety

Dana Franklin

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It's been another rough week for Foxconn, Apple's biggest manufacturing partner. After an explosion at a Foxconn factory killed three workers last Friday, the Chinese government urged the manufacturer and other Taiwanese companies to better ensure the safety of their employees.

"We hope Foxconn and other Taiwanese firms can learn lessons from this, carry out safety responsibilities, step up internal oversight, stamp out potential safety risks in a timely manner, and ensure safe production," Fan Liqing, a spokeswoman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday.

Friday's deadly explosion rocked a Foxconn polishing workshop in Chengdu, a city in southwest China, where workers put the finishing touches on electronic products for many of the world's largest brands, including Apple. Immediately after the blast, the local government began rescue efforts and an investigation into its cause. So far, investigators believe the explosion was the result of a "production safety accident," according to Fan, who didn't go into further details about the cause of the incident. Previous reports suggest that combustible dust in the polishing workshop ignited to fuel the blast.

In response to the incident, Foxconn has temporarily suspended operations at all of its workshops that polish electronics in China and, according to Fan, the manufacturer pledged to "make an all out effort" to treat the injured workers, reassure the families of their employees, and remove hidden safety risks "in accordance with relevant requirements."

Foxconn, the world's largest manufacturer of electronic components, has faced harsh criticism for tough working conditions, particularly following an epidemic of worker suicides last year. Since then, the company has made efforts to raise employee compensation, slash working hours, and improve work-life balance. Despite these efforts, protests outside a Foxconn shareholder meeting earlier this month and last Friday's explosion at the newly operational, two-billion-dollar facility in Chengdu have left many wondering if the company is doing enough to protect the interests of its more than one million employees in China.

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