Apple Sees Record Numbers at a High Human Cost

With Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) seeing great success with its iPad, it comes at a high cost. Chinese workers at the company’s suppliers endure tough and fatal conditions to get this product as well as other ones to market.

One day after the company reported its best quarter ever, a news report has been released about the China iPad factories. According to the New York Times, during a seven-month period in 2011, two explosions, including the highly-publicized Chengdu facility incident, killed four and injured 77 workers.

Apple had been informed about the hazardous conditions at Chengdu two weeks before the explosion by a group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior. They cited the following issues at the factory, “Workers do not have adequate training on usage of chemicals and do not have regular on-post health examination. Workers also highlight the problem of poor ventilation and inadequate personal protective equipment.”

The company allegedly received the warning but whether they did anything about it isn’t known.

Difficult Working Conditions

Workers at these factories deal with excessive overtime, sometimes working seven days a week and living in crowded dorms as high as 70,000 people. Some people are sharing beds, while other situations include the sharing of three-bedroom apartments between 20 people …

Health problems have also occurred such as swollen legs for the workers after standing for extended periods of time. Another concern is the number of under age workers at the factories.

The facilities have thrown out hazardous waste and falsified records to hide some of the problems, according to the New York Times.

Apple has attempted to tackle some of these concerns with a Supplier Code of Conduct that lists standards for labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company conducts audits and when abuses have been identified, corrections have been requested.

In its most recent progress report released after the Chengdu explosion, Apple said it had “significantly” reduced child labor situations but a 60-hour work week rule continued but it was only utilized 38 percent of the time, according to CNET.

The report also disclosed findings of “some violations” in its compliance code for environmental standards after reviewing 14 facilities while 58 facilities received treatment for their air emissions systems.

Change isn’t Coming

Apple has announced …

it joined the Fair Labor Association and that it will be more open about the manufacturing of its products, of which last year, almost all of it took place overseas, according to the New York Times.

But don’t expect too much change to come anytime soon. One unidentified Apple executive said,”You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.”