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Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) international suppliers were in the limelight once again after a gas leak in a China factory owned by Catcher Technology led to the death of one person and the injury of four others. Local authorities said on Friday that hydrogen sulfide gas had leaked from a liquid-waste treatment workshop at a factory in Suzhou. The Taiwanese company builds unibody metal cases for Apple’s MacBook lineup and supplies components to Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), and HTC, among others.
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Of the four injured employees, three are said to be in serious condition while one has been transferred out of intensive care. Catcher spokesman James Wu said the leakage took place during “routine work,” but that it didn’t have anything to do with production or raw materials.
The same factory had previously been one of just five to receive the worst possible “black” rating from the Suzhou Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Wu said the factory had temporarily suspended operations to improve the safety of the plant after that study, calling the latest accident an “isolated incident.”
China-based suppliers of electronic manufacturers have been in the limelight over the past few months after a spate of worker suicides, accidents, pollution charges, and negative audit reports. Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry faced massive criticism after several employees committed suicides and an explosion killed four workers at a plant in Chengdu last year. Earlier this year, after an independent audit found work deplorable conditions and violations of labor rights, Apple and Hon Hai pledged to limit working hours and make other safety changes.
Last year, Catcher was forced to close two of its factories in Suzhou after residential neighbors complained that the plants were emitting a strong gas smell.
“The rising environmental concern of China residents has caused all the Apple suppliers to focus more on this,” a Taipei analyst told Financial Times. Many companies that produce tech hardware, not just Apple’s suppliers, have “faced these kind of protests from residents.”
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