Workers’ exposure to hazardous and toxic chemicals in the electronics factories in batam, indonesia

Electronics has been one of the fastest rising industries. It has generated a broad range of products and services that are increasingly used in almost every human activity. Global value and supply chains in the electronics industry are more geographically extensive and dynamic than in any other manufacturing sector. More than a quarter of a trillion chips are manufactured annually, requiring the use of staggering amounts of toxic chemicals, metals and gases.

These toxic chemicals are essential raw materials for electronics, and thousands of chemicals are being used in its production processes with devastating effects on the health of workers, communities and the environment as a whole. Since 2008, the Indonesian government has officially designated the electronics industry as one of the six priority industries. However, the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals in the electronics industry and its impacts to workers and environmental health in the country are still unknown.

This report describes the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals and the condition of workers in the electronics factories in Batam, Indonesia, and their daily encounter with them in unsafe workplaces. By describing the case studies of several factories, the report found that the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals in the production of electronics goods in the country is a norm, despite taking the lives of workers and polluting the environments. It is such ironic: the electronics is ‘toxic and deadly’ industry, yet it requires a “healthy lung and young blood” to work in their unsafe workplaces. Young workers in this industry, majority of whom are women, have been ill and many of them have died due to occupational disease they suffered.

There is no single occupational doctor provided by the government, and the doctors practicing in Batam are certified occupational doctors that are working for the companies, where their views and information on Occupational Safety and Health issues are dubious. Several key findings of the report include (1) weak role of government in regulating the influx of hazardous and toxic chemicals; (2) lack of government monitoring on the use of chemicals in the workplaces; (3) bogus social audits and chaotic certification business; and (4) workers’ daily encounter with the toxic chemicals.

Fahmi Panimbang a labour activist with LIPS (Lembaga Informasi Perburuhan Sedane/Sedane Labor Resource Center) in Indonesia. Fahmi worked as a programme coordinator on capital mobility at Asia Monitor Resource Centre in Hong Kong (2010-2016). His recent publications include “Global Supply Chains: Struggle within or against them?” in Lessons for Social Change in the Global Economy: Voices from the Field (Lexington Books, 2014) (co-authored with Sanjiv Pandita) and “Labour Strikes in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia, 1998-2013” in Strikes and Workers Movements in the 21st Century (Rowman Littlefield, forthcoming) (co-authored with Abu Mufakhir).

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