Neighboring elementary schools have postponed new semesters in fear of fallout from recent chemical leaks at a nearby Samsung plant. The surrounding community is unsettled with anger and frustration. However, nine days after leaks of hydrofluoric acid gas that killed one worker and injured four at its plant south of Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. continues to cover up the fatal incidents with more lies. The following is a quick rundown of new facts that the world’s largest chipmaker had been covering up since this blog’s last post:
Samsung said of the Jan. 27-28 leaks as the first-of-its-kind incident. However, it was not the first time that hydrofluoric acid gas, a virulent and deadly impurity remover for semiconductor wafers, has leaked at the Hwaseong plant. The conservative Chosun Il bo quoted a study conducted in 2011 by Dr. Suh Byung-seong, of Sungkyunkwan University and Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, and reported that a 37-year-old male worker was treated in Sept. 2010 after exposures to the acid gas.
Prof. Suh’s study did not name Samsung’s Hwaseong plant as the site of the leak and instead described it as a semiconductor plant with 20,000 employees. However, Samsung confirmed the incident, saying “a contract worker was exposed to the leak [three years ago].” This is particularly outrageous because while Samsung concealed the leak from authorities in breach of law, a professor who teaches at a university and a hospital that Samsung owns, could still conduct a study of the victim.
Initial press reports put the volume of the January 28-29 leaks at ten liters. Later, Samsung said it was about two or three liters. However, an autopsy of the 34-year-old victim known by his last name Hwang turned up a blister larger than one centimeter in the respiratory path, suggesting that the amounts of the leaks exceeded the capacity of his gasmask’s filter. The exact volume of the leaks has yet to be determined.
Samsung ordered the four workers who were dispatched to the leak from contractor STI Service to patch up the leaks with absorption pads and plastic bags although the workers reported that the melted gasket needed immediate replacement, according to an opposition lawmaker who interviewed one of the four workers.
It was about 11:30pm, about nine hours after the first leak, when Samsung management agreed to the replacement. Hwang, who ultimately died due to his exposure to the leak, had to work on the leak during his first hours on the site without wearing a protective suit because Samsung had urged him to stop the leak immediately so production would not be interrupted.