Samsung issues apology for fatal acid spill at its Korean semiconductor plant

Samsung Vice-President Kwon Oh-hyun released a statement today, apologizing for the fatal hydrofluoric acid spill that left one worker dead and four others injured. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kwon said that the company will “fundamentally change” its environmental safety system and investigate its processes to ensure that such an accident never happens again. Additionally, Samsung also plans to withdraw its application for the plant, located in Hwaseong, Korea, certified as “green,” with no intention of resubmitting the application for the next five years.  

The accident, which occurred in late January, has resulted in a fair amount of controversy for Samsung: after initially being investigated for covering up the leak, the Korean police denied Samsung’s statement that the accident that the leak was contained.

“We’ve always taken great pride in the high standards we set for our operations and the safety measures we have in place,” Samsung’s spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. “In keeping with our commitment to operating high-quality facilities, we are committed to continually making enhancements to our protocols to ensure we are protecting the safety and well-being of our employees, partners and the local community.”

Hydroflouric acid, both in liquid and vapor forms, can cause severe burns, which may or may not be visible immediately after exposure. HF penetrates the skin, causing damage to the underlying tissues, including bones and organs, in severe cases. Inhalation of HF vapors can also cause burns in the mouth, esophagus and lungs. Click here to learn more about what your first response to an HF spill should be.

Are you prepared for cleanroom disaster?

Chances of a catastrophic cleanroom incident are typically slight, but even semiconductor giants like Samsung are not immune to the possibility. Bryan Swales is managing director of Relelectronic-Remech, which specializes in the recovery of technical equipment following contamination and damage events. He writes that developing an incident recovery plan pre-disaster is key to weathering both the immediate physical dangers and the public relations mess that can ensue after a cleanroom disaster. The plan, Swales said, should identify each type of disaster which could occur, and define how the organization will react to each.

“When properly developed and implemented, including ongoing training of all relevant personnel,” said Swales, “an incident recovery plan represents a pro-active, designed-in emergency response and management program unique to the organization and covering all ‘foreseeable’ disastrous events.”

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