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Samsung investigates worker's death following chemical leak at chip plant

A hydrofluoric acid leak at Samsung Electronics' Hwaseong plant in South Korea sent five workers to a hospital, where one died

A chemical leak at a Samsung Electronics plant in South Korea has resulted in the death of a contract worker, while four others have been discharged from a hospital after treatment, the company said Monday.

Hydrofluoric acid leaked from a chemical supply system during a maintenance operation at Samsung's Hwaseong site, the company said. A service company sent the contract workers to deal with the problem, Samsung said.

"Sadly, one worker died due to complications," the company said in a statement offering condolences to the contractor's family.

The Hwaseong site, near Seoul, is home to one of the world's largest memory chip factories. Last June Samsung said it will invest almost US$2 billion in a new production line due to open there by the end of this year. The line will use 20-nanometer and 14nm production processes to make mobile application processors on 300 millimeter wafers.

Korean media reports said the leak, of about 10 liters of hydrofluoric acid from a tank with a capacity of 500 liters, began around 11 p.m. local time on Sunday.

Yonhap News Agency reported that the company delayed reporting the leak for up to 15 hours after it occurred.

Hydrofluoric acid is used to etch away silicon oxides in the manufacture of semiconductor wafers.

It is highly corrosive and can also dissolve glass and stainless steel. It burns exposed skin, and over-exposure to vapor or mist can cause tissue damage and death.

Samsung said the leak has been contained and that it will investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at [email protected].


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