Online tool highlights protection gaps in electronics industry
Wednesday 30th November 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
The Chemical Challenge Gap Analysis shows the disparity between industry standards devised by the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), which comprises more than 100 electronics, retail, auto and toy companies, including Apple, Samsung Electronics and Foxconn, and those set by the GoodElectronics Network, the International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT) and experts from civil society organisations (CSOs).
Last year GoodElectronics, the international network on human rights and sustainability in electronics, and ICRT, which promotes corporate and government accountability, issued a formal challenge to the electronics sector, urging it to implement safer manufacturing practices and to use less hazardous chemicals. They said that workers on the electronics assembly lines that are exposed to toxic substances are at greater risk of developing cancer and other health problems, and suffering miscarriages.
Meeting the Challenge was published in March 2015 and set out their benchmarks for safe and sustainable practice. It contained recommendations for safe production methods and highlighted six areas the industry should address: transparency, use of safer chemicals, protection of workers, participation of workers and communities, protection of communities and the environment, and compensation and remediation.
The new gap analysis is made up of two assessments: EICC's self-assessment (which compared its code of conduct and validated audit process (VAP) protocol with the recommendations that GoodElectronics and ICRT set out in the Meeting the Challenge document); and the CSO assessment (GoodElectronics, ICRT and experts' evaluation of the robustness of the same EICC code of conduct and VAP protocol as compared with Meeting the Challenge).
It demonstrates how both assessments compare, showing either "no gap" -- the EICC requirements are in line with CSO expectations; "small gap" -- the EICC requirements are a little below CSO expectations; "considerable gap" -- EICC requirements are well below CSO expectations; and "large gap" -- the EICC requirements are far below CSO expectations.
In every instance, either both parties agreed that the extent of the gap was large, or the results of the industry's self-assessment fell below CSO expectations. "EICC paints a rosier picture of where the industry stands compared to the NGO benchmark," GoodElectronics and ICRT said.
For example, asked whether suppliers provide full health and safety information to workers, the EICC indicated that its requirements and CSO expectations were aligned, while the CSO score showed there were considerable gaps.
The question "Are suppliers required to ensure no harm to workers due to exposure to low level or multiple chemicals?" revealed that EICC believed there was a low gap. According to GoodElectroncs and ICRT's score, however, there was a large gap.
The EICC claims it is committed to supporting the wellbeing of workers around the world that are affected by the global electronics supply chain. But GoodElectronics and ICRT said: "The question is whether the efforts made by EICC and its member companies are enough. The short but clear answer is that they are not."
They added that the gap analysis "demonstrates how far the standards and tools developed by EICC fall short of the expectations set by [CSOs] and experts in the field of occupational health and safety and industrial hygiene".
GoodElectronics, ICRT and EICC and the members of its Chemical Management Working Group will further discuss the gap analysis early next year.
Alejandro Gonzalez from GoodElectronics said: "We call on the electronics industry to proactively reduce and eliminate human rights violations associated with the use of process chemicals in the manufacturing of electronics products and components.
"In the upcoming discussions, the objective will be to agree on specific priority areas to be improved and then define a roadmap leading to concrete changes in the entire electronics industry. Some of the potential focus areas include public disclosure of names and addresses of all suppliers, policies and contract clauses guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining, and policing ensuring suppliers provide fair compensation to workers."
Almost 350 people have signed a petition for technology brands to implement the challenge that GoodElectronics and ICRT issued to the industry. It needs 500 signatories before it can be delivered to EICC, Apple, Samsung and Foxconn.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that, between 1 November 2013 and 7 January 2015, it received six reports of workers from Mahle Powertrain’s Northampton factory that had been absent for more than seven days as a result of back injuries. Birmingham Crown Court was told that one member of staff had been in hospital for seven days and off work for more than nine weeks.
Aylesbury Crown Court was told that three computer numeric control (CNC) machine operators employed by Martin Baker were exposed to metalworking fluid for many years and developed a lung disease known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA) – an allergic reaction to breathing in mist and vapour from the fluid. Symptoms of the disease include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.The agreement, signed in the Qatari capital Doha, allows joint inspections of construction sites and workers’ accommodation from January. It covers World Cup projects built by companies headquartered in countries where BWI operates. These are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, India and Italy.
On 6 October 2014, a 39-year-old employee of Rudolph and Hellmann Automotive, which was contracted to manage materials movement on the production lines, had his left foot crushed when he was run over by forklift truck. The next day, a 55-year-old operations manager was seriously injured by a falling metal box as he walked along a marked pedestrian footpath. The box fell off a forklift and pinned him to the ground. He sustained punctured lungs, internal bleeding and a fractured pelvis.
Titanium tetrachloride, a highly volatile metal halide used to produce titanium and the pigment titanium dioxide, had built up inside a vessel on site. In the early hours of 5 March 2010, the chemical came into contact with water and created a violent reaction which ruptured the vessel. When the liquid from the cracked vessel then came into contact with the air, it formed a large toxic vapour cloud.
IOSH Magazinereported last week that a worker was diagnosed with HAVS in October 2014 after he visited his GP. He was not under any health surveillance and did not know how to report his symptoms. Thanet District Council reported the injury under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).