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SAFETY AT SAMSUNG AND IN THE SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY
Yes. Samsung works hard to ensure the health and safety of all employees. For 40 years and counting, we have innovated new practices and advanced responsible chemical and process safety management both in our facilities and across the semiconductor industry. We operate state-of-the-art systems, including rigorous chemical management, at all of our semiconductor fabrication plants worldwide.
We meet industry EHS standards across all of our semiconductor fabrication plants, and our ongoing ambition is to invest in finding better standards for ourselves and the industry. Samsung has innovated many of the processes and controls that are now standard in the industry and continues to look for further enhancements. For instance, in addition to being the first to develop and implement real-time, 24/7 chemical monitoring in 2007, we have advanced air and water quality systems and monitoring of chemical air composition.
Semiconductor fabrication is a highly complex and technical process that uses chemicals and potentially hazardous materials. However, our exposure standard is one tenth of the permitted legal standard, thereby ensuring that any exposure remains significantly below any level that could cause harm to people and the environment.
We always strictly evaluate our safety controls to ensure employees and neighboring communities are not exposed to any potentially harmful chemicals. We have also developed an environmental safety index to inform the company’s important stakeholder groups with essential environmental information. Before a new chemical substance is introduced, it is analyzed for physical and chemical characteristics, potential health hazards and any associated risks. Following analysis, appropriate health and environmental safety controls and measures for storage, use, disposal and recycling are implemented.
While contents of a number of materials have remained undisclosed and protected as trade secrets, we require that all of our suppliers comply with our strict hazardous materials policy and test every chemical they supply us for compliance.
Please click here for more details on our chemical management process and safety controls.
Our Environment Health & Safety (EHS) team of over more than 500 employees oversees operations and conducts regular inspections. This oversight ensures that each Samsung Electronics facility complies with the most stringent regulations. For instance, because of sheer caution and strict management of chemicals, we maintain exposure levels below one tenth of permitted legal requirements. In addition to our routine safety inspections, credible third parties verify our inspection results regularly. Government agencies also conduct frequent and unannounced audits at all our semiconductor facilities.
Every employee is required to participate in health and safety training. We customize each employee’s training for his or her role from more than 120 total courses offered, ranging from handling chemicals to ISO/OSHAS protocols to emergency response. Employees begin training when they are initially hired and continue on a monthly basis throughout their careers at our company. Samsung also partners with more than 20 external institutions to ensure we are offering the best training to our people.
Benzene is an elementary petrochemical that is a component in everyday products, such as plastic, synthesized rubber, gasoline, and detergents. But studies have found that when exposed through the air, benzene may increase the risk of certain illnesses, including cancer. In this regard, Benzene is strictly prohibited within the semiconductor industry and we have never used the chemical in our semiconductor operations.
However, a 2009 consulting project, suggested by the Korean Ministry of Labor and led by an academic team from Seoul National University, found trace amounts of the chemical (average 0.33ppb) that were considerably lower than the industry exposure standard (1,000ppb). If Benzene is created as a by-product of production process by chance, it is highly unlikely for Samsung employees to be affected by Benzene, in that its detected level was the similar amount found in everyday products and the usual air environment (0.1~10.0ppb).
To make sure, re-examination of the same sample was carried out by several laboratories in Korea and an internationally-certified test lab, which found no traces of benzene. Out of an abundance of caution, Samsung continues to closely monitor for evidence of benzene as part of our chemical management and monitoring system.
※ Benzene concentration in the air everyday environments (average): Office 0.25ppb, Smoking room 0.86ppb, Gas station 2.58ppb, Cross roads 10.84ppb
For more information on benzene, please click here .
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES ON SAMSUNG’S WORK ENVIRONMENT
Operating in a transparent and ethical way is the foundation of our business. To this end, Samsung opened its manufacturing lines for several research programs, including the epidemiological investigation that was conducted by Korea Occupational safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) from 2007 to 2008 and a research program carried out by Environ, a top international environmental and human health consultancy, from 2010 to 2011. We provided all relevant materials and data that were needed to conduct the research. Further, Samsung voluntarily postponed scheduled upgrades to our semiconductor fabrication lines and preserved working conditions at Line 3 for up to two years to ensure accuracy of the government epidemiological study.
Samsung took part in an epidemiological investigation of the entire Korean semiconductor industry that was conducted by the Occupational Safety & Health Research Institute (OSHRI) of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA). The purpose of the study was to evaluate if cause of disease was directly related to work environment. The investigation found no statistically significant increase in the incidence of leukemia or increased risk of death in comparison to the general Korean population.
Environ, a leading environmental consultancy, conducted a study on Samsung’s semiconductor workplace environment, in which it concluded that chemical and physical agent exposure levels were within industry standards, and that historical workplace exposure was unlikely to have caused the diagnosed cancers. The study was reviewed by an external Scientific Advisory Panel of experts from institutions including the Harvard School of Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, Tisch Cancer Institute and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Results were presented at the International Commission on Occupational Health (March, 2012) and the American Industrial Hygiene conference and Expo (June, 2012).
Although Samsung does not use benzene in our operations, a consulting project encouraged by the Korean Ministry of Labor and led by an academic team from Seoul National University in 2009 found trace amounts of benzene that were considerably lower than standard levels. Since benzene is prohibited within the industry and is not a substance used in our operations, Samsung engaged several labs in Korea to re-test the sample for the said material and commissioned an internationally-certified test lab to verify the results. On re-examination of the same sample, no traces of benzene were found. However, out of an abundance of caution, Samsung continues to closely monitor material usage for any traces through control systems.
KOREAN WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM AND RULINGS
An employee may apply for a worker’s compensation claim with the Korea Worker’s Compensation and Welfare Service (KWCWS) if he or she is injured or falls ill at work.
As a concerned employer and a party of interest, Samsung supports the rights of our employees to seek compensation or benefits for valid health or occupational concerns and cooperates with KWCWS to assess worker’s compensation claims.
While we respect the rulings of the Seoul Administrative Court, it is important to note that the Court acknowledged that there is no scientifically proven correlation between workplace environment and employee illness.
In fact, independent research conducted by KOSHA, the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, and other consultants further confirmed no evidence of illness caused by the semiconductor work environment.
In addition, Samsung was not a defendant in the case heard by the Seoul Administrative Court, but was named a party of interest in the case by the Court. In this role, Samsung cooperated with the Korea Worker’s Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) to properly present the facts.
SUPPORT FOR OUR CURRENT AND FORMER EMPLOYEES
We hold ourselves and our suppliers to the highest health and safety standards, and consider our people our greatest asset. That is why in 2011 alone, Samsung invested KRW 100 billion for continued upkeep and improvement of our semiconductor infrastructure. We continue to follow up on our commitment with considerable amounts of investments every year.
To improve health and safety measures, we also established the Samsung Health Research Institute, a research organization comprised of specialists in areas including health, medicine, chemical engineering and environmental health. The institute has conducted more than 180 research projects since its opening in 2010, to ensure healthy working environments and improve employees’ well-being, and raise the standard for assessing workplace health and safety.
Samsung is committed to providing all of our employees a safe and healthy work environment in every facility we operate around the world. It is truly sad and heart-breaking for us that some of Samsung's former employees have passed away or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our semiconductor manufacturing facilities in Korea.
We have been faithfully committed to working with the affected families to determine how best to help them, and continue to actively engage in discussions with the concerned parties. In December, 2014, an independent, third-party Mediating Committee was formed to oversee open dialogue between the concerned parties, conducting in-depth hearings and assessing the parties' respective proposals.
In response to the mediation committee's proposal, Samsung Electronics created a company-run fund of KRW 100 billion to be given out as financial aid and representatives from affected families have been participating in the financial support program. As of July, 2018, more than 130 people have received financial support through the program as well as a heartfelt message of sympathy from Samsung’s CEO.
In January, 2016, Samsung Electronics reached an agreement with the Family Committee and the Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS) on the mediation proposal to establish an independent, third-party Ombudsman Committee that will assess the workplace safety within the company’s semiconductor facilities in Korea. The Ombudsman Committee officially launched in June, 2016, and announced its findings in April, 2018.
In July 25, 2018, Samsung Electronics and SHARPS agreed to accept proposals that would be set forth by the Mediation Committee.
Samsung will faithfully implement recommended actions from the Ombudsman Committee as well as the Mediation Committee, and remains fully committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for our valued employees.
Q. What other support does Samsung currently provide to current and former employees who have fallen ill or have passed away?As is standard practice and a sign of respect in Korea, we provide support to employees who become ill while employed with Samsung. Support may include financial aid, medical expense assistance and insurance coverage. These efforts are made because it is the right thing to do -- not because we have any legal or court-ordered mandates to do so.
We also provide employees with comprehensive benefits programs, which include subsidies for medical expenses encompassing support for serious illnesses, health checkups and onsite treatment through our medical centers, musculoskeletal treatment center and consultation services with registered medical teams on staff. In 2013, we provided more than 21.5 billion KRW* in such medical support to semiconductor employees. This figure did not include various health insurance fees as well as operational costs for onsite medical facilities.