Foxconn Plant Explosion: What You Need to Know

Foxconn has once again found itself in an unfavorable spotlight after a fire and explosion at one of its plants last week killed three workers and injured more than a dozen others. The company that makes iPhones and iPads is finally providing some details on what happened and whether it'll affect production. Here's what we know:

Image Credit: IDGNS Boston, A photo of the southern campus at Foxconn's Chengdu factory, provided by Hong Kong-based group SACOM

What is Foxconn?

Foxconn is a Chinese manufacturer of products for many well-known consumer tech companies, including Apple, Dell, HP and Nokia. The company is often associated with the manufacturing of Apple products, including iPhones, iPads and iPad.

What happened?

Last Friday, a fire and explosion in one of Foxconn's plants killed three people and injured over a dozen others, the Washington Post reports. (Previous reports said two people died.) The explosion occurred in a building where Apple's iPad 2 is manufactured.

What caused the fire and explosion at Foxconn?

According to the Post, Foxconn's initial reports pinned the accident on an explosion of combustible dust in an air duct. Poor ventilation was cited as an occupational hazard two weeks ago in a report by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, CNet reported. Foxconn responded by saying that while it isn't perfect, it's taken steps over the past year to support employees inside and outside the workplace.

Has Apple responded?

"We are working closely with Foxconn to understand what caused this terrible event," Apple told All Things Digital. The company's 2011 supplier progress report doesn't specifically mention occupational hazards at Foxconn.

Hasn't Foxconn been in the news before?

Foxconn has been under scrutiny for suicides at its plants. The suicide rates are actually lower than they are in China as a whole, but they nonetheless don't reflect well on a factory with a reputation for long working hours at low wages. Foxconn has tried to alleviate the problem with counseling, entertainment and actual nets to prevent fatal jumps. Apple's supplier progress report specifically mentions Foxconn suicides, and the steps both companies are taking to improve worker well-being. For more on this issue, check out Joel Johnson's first-hand account in Wired and another account published by Southern Weekend, translated by Engadget.

Will the Foxconn explosion cause iPad shortages?

Foxconn said production at the site has been suspended until an investigation is complete, and analysts have speculated that iPad 2 supplies will be affected. However, Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn parent company Hon Hai, said the explosion has not delayed iPad production, according to China Times.

Video: Foxconn Explosion Claims Three Lives

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