Apple sends medical experts to Pegatron factory after worker death

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Apple Inc on Thursday said it sent medical experts to contractor Pegatron Corp's Shanghai factory last month after a 15-year-old employee died of pneumonia.

Apple has taken various measures in response to criticism that its products were made in sweatshop-like conditions, since employee suicides at supplier Foxconn in 2010. Last year, it commissioned the Fair Labour Association to investigate suppliers' factories.

"Last month we sent independent medical experts from the US and China to conduct an investigation at the factory," Apple said in a statement. "While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realise that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones.

"Apple has a long-standing commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace for every worker in our supply chain, and we have a team working with Pegatron at their facility to ensure that conditions meet our high standards."

The assembly line employee, who died in October, used his 21-year-old cousin's identification to apply for the job, so the factory did not know he was underage, said Pegatron spokesman Charles Lin.

The Taiwanese company, which assembles Apple's iPhone and iPad mini, concluded the death was not related to working conditions as the employee had only recently joined and because the assembly line environment should not cause a disease such as pneumonia, Mr Lin said.

Mr Lin also said three other employee deaths this year, in March and April, were caused by various medical conditions unrelated to work at the factory.

"Pegatron has strict measures in place to verify workers'ages before and after they are hired, and we work with health and safety experts to provide a safe working environment for each and every worker," Pegatron said in a statement.

"We have an excellent track record of compliance with laws aimed at preventing underage labour."

China Labour Watch, a New York-based labour rights group, said the worker's pre-employment physical examination on Sept 4 showed he was in good health.

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