The Fair Labor Association (FLA) today announced that Apple will join the association as a participating company, effective immediately.

As a result of Apple's participation, the FLA will independently assess facilities in Apple's supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website. The FLA reports that Apple is the first technology company to join the association.

Apple released a statement of its own on the move to join the FLA, saying the association "will conduct special voluntary audits of Apple's final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, at Apple's request."

A team of labor rights experts led by FLA President Auret van Heerden began the first inspections Monday morning at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City.

"We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we've asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports."

As part of its independent assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions, including health and safety, compensation, working hours, and communication with management. The FLA's team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.

Apples said its suppliers were in full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations, and that the FLA's findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted in early March online.

The move comes in the wake of last week's demonstrations, which targeted Apple retail stores. Protestors on Thursday delivered a petition of 250,000 signatures collected by and to Apple stores around the globe, asking that the company "clean up its supply chain."