We don’t let anyone cut corners on safety. We constantly seek out ideas — from our own employees and from outside experts — to make production processes safer, and we apply them to our entire supply chain. We’re also working with suppliers to improve worker well‑being in factories and beyond.
Making working conditions safer.
To reduce the risk of hazards in the workplace, suppliers must provide proper protective gear, guardrails, safety harnesses and other safety equipment, as well as comprehensive, up-to-date training for workers. And we go even further. In many cases, we review new materials and manufacturing processes to assess potential risks and take appropriate action before they are introduced to the supply chain. When we discover a problem — during an audit or through one of Apple’s many onsite employees — we require immediate correction, and we look for ways to expand safety procedures and practices in all similar facilities.
Occupational and process safety.
With the help of industry experts, we conduct specialised process safety assessments at certain supplier facilities to look deeply into potential hazards of manufacturing processes. In 2012, we conducted these assessments at 40 facilities. If we discover a problem, we share it with the facility and discuss actions the supplier must take, then return to the facility to ensure that corrective measures have been taken. We also offer training to suppliers to identify hazards and make positive changes in their manufacturing facilities.
Training to identify hazards.
It is critical that both suppliers and Apple employees are prepared to identify hazards. Since 2011, we have trained more than 350 Apple employees who spend time in suppliers’ facilities on process safety topics such as flammable vapours, combustible dust, toxins and reactive materials. In 2012, we trained another 261 supplier personnel on personal protection equipment. Other health and safety training topics have included chemical safety and lockout tagout (LOTO) — a procedure related to isolation of hazardous materials and energy during maintenance and modifications. We trained 95 suppliers on chemical safety and 77 on LOTO.
Pairing specialised process safety assessments and training allows us to identify hazards, educate suppliers and empower them to make changes to improve safety at their manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, we continue to develop broader health and safety standards and requirements for supplier facilities. For example, we are creating auditable standards for chemical hazard management. We started working with key suppliers on these requirements in 2012, and we will conduct training for these standards in 2013.
To help improve workers’ health and well-being, we are conducting a detailed study of job roles in factories in diverse areas of our supply chain to identify ergonomic risks. For each of these roles, ergonomic experts will carefully analyse tasks and workstations. We are using the results of these assessments to strengthen our standards for both workstation design and job performance guidelines, including task, training and job rotation requirements.
Our worker well-being efforts don’t stop there. Expanding our investment in employee assistance, we conducted extensive research at four final assembly facilities to understand the areas workers would like to see improved. Using a combination of roundtable discussions and written surveys, we got to the heart of what matters most to the 70,000 workers at these sites. Our research results suggest opportunities for improvement in areas including social support networks, quality of sleep and dining, worker-supervisor relationships, and counselling and advisory services. As a result of our worker surveys at all the facilities in this pilot, suppliers have taken specific actions, such as changing food vendors, tracking cafeteria food purchases to provide feedback to food vendors, evaluating the impact of room-darkening window shades in dormitories, assigning workers to dormitory rooms based on shift times and changing security providers for increased coverage.
Working with the academic community.
Apple’s Supplier Responsibility team continues to collaborate with the academic community to explore ways to enhance our worker programmes. In 2012, we formed an advisory board including leading experts from Stanford, Columbia and Cornell Universities, MIT, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley. The board will have access to Apple’s audit data, programme results and supply chain information so its members can independently develop and research projects that will be incorporated into our Supplier Responsibility programme and made available to the broader academic community.