The Blame Game

Preventable Factory Fire in China Once Again Not Prevented

Co-written by Joey Friedman

75 Chinese workers at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Production Co.  perished in a factory explosion on Saturday, August 2nd. Zhongrong makes automotive parts for General Motors Co. and other auto makers. Dense with dust, its believed the unfiltered air combusted upon contact with a heat source. Like many unfortunate factory fires, this could have been prevented by installing a simple ventilation system.

In an attempt to avoid responsibility, few head employees were willing to speak or take action after the explosion. Factory Chairman Wu Ji-tao was not found within reach for comment. The factory’s online contact, Zhang Ying refused to answer any questions regarding the blast. According to a report by The New York Times, China’s top work-safety agency pointed to local government to take on responsibility for the tragic event. Government officials are currently refusing to comment. Citic Dicastal Wheel Manufacturing Co., wheel-makers that subcontract orders to Zhongrong is also not available for comment.

General Motors deflects its relationship with the factory, making clear that is sources its parts through Citic Dicastal, its tier 1 supplier, and has no direct relationship with Zhongrong, this tier 2 supplier.

Of the more than 260 people onsite at the time of the explosion on early Saturday morning, 75 have died and nearly 200 are injured.

Combustible dust is a widely known manufacturing hazard. As a metal polishing plant, Zhongrong should have had a ventilation system in place before becoming operational.  As the Wall Street Journal reported, without a ventilation system these explosions can happen without warning. ]

This incident helps to bring greater attention to the problem of poor ventilation systems and insufficient safety trainings in Chinese factories. It took two disasters within Apple supplier factories in China for Apple to finally “order” the factories to adopt new and safer techniques to prevent metal combustion fires, in 2012. The order would seem more sufficient if Chinese factories weren’t so well known for their questionable enforcement.

Apple is nearing its launch of the new iPhone 6, a product heavily in demand and gaining high expectations. Sources revealed that the crave for the new product is resulting in a rush to hire new factory employees, extend work hours, and increase of hazardous exposure for workers. Do our gadget-grubbing demands influence the unsafe conditions and harsh treatment of overseas factory workers?


  1. This is becoming epidemic. It is sad that owners of these factories are not more concerned about these old buildings, not properly regulated, and no one is paying close enough attention to combustables in these factories. I hope people start taking better precautions. And save the lives of people creating our goods at an astronomically low wage.

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