How to increase worker safety in semiconductor fabs

Establish and follow proper management and safety procedures

By Lee Beattie December 20, 2021
Courtesy: NSTAR Global Services

Without the proper safety precautions in place, working in a semiconductor fabrication facility can be dangerous. On a daily basis, semiconductor personnel face many different potential hazards from body strains caused by ergonomic risk factors and slips and falls to exposure to pressurized sources such as hazardous chemicals, gasses and shocks from high electrical voltage.

But this needn’t be the case. If proper management and safety standards are put in place to minimize risk to workers, the entire operation will run smoothly. Some of the ways semiconductor facility managers can improve worker safety include conducting sitewide risk analysis, properly training technicians, prioritizing worker safety over keeping to a schedule and performing routine safety audits.

Conduct a sitewide risk analysis

Before beginning any work, it’s important to conduct a comprehensive risk analysis audit. This includes analyzing what tasks and processes are needed, determining the risks associated with each and scoring them using failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA). FMEA is system that assigns numerical values to each potential process failure based on the probability of the occurrence, severity and detection of the failure. Using FMEA helps facility managers put safer processes into place and determine which tasks may need additional support and resources to guarantee safety.

Usually, sitewide risk analysis audits also include a job safety analysis (JSA), which is used to list all potential health and safety hazards associated with each task and dictate the best methods to avoid those hazards.

Provide training for workers

The best risk mitigation measure semiconductor facility managers can possibly take is investing in a thorough, careful and confident workforce. That is only possible by providing workers with extensive training, before they begin working as well as onsite. Each worker should understand exactly what is expected of them and have a firm grasp of all the relevant safety procedures before they touch the equipment. Injuries are often caused by sloppy technique or general uncertainty, both of which can be avoided with the proper training.

Even when the actual work begins, it needs to be done in a constant coaching environment, especially for inexperienced technicians. Managers need to follow up with personnel daily to address various safety concerns.

Prioritize worker safety over sticking to a schedule

The biggest mistake manufacturing facility managers make that leads to injuries and other hazards is trying to stick to an unrealistic schedule. Rushing to meet deadlines and quotas leads to reduced worker oversight, sloppiness and procedural shortcuts, all of which increase the risk of accidents.

While missing deadlines may cost manufacturers time and money, it is nothing compared to the amount of time and money workplace injuries cost. Severe injuries can derail production for a long time, which comes with hefty medical and legal bills.

Instead of rushing through procedures, the best way to meet deadlines is through careful planning and taking calculated steps to increase operational efficiency. Taking shortcuts may work initially, but it’s only a matter of time before the hazards catch up.

Courtesy: NSTAR Global Services

Courtesy: NSTAR Global Services

Perform routine safety audits

Another way to decrease the risk of accidents is by performing routine safety audits. Every facility should have dedicated safety officers whose job is to conduct periodic observations and audits. This is to ensure all personnel are working safely and all tools are working properly. These audits allow facility managers to catch and fix potential problems before they occur and correct them in a timely manner.

Facility partners can help

Facility services partners in the semiconductor industry can help fab managers reduce worker risk and increase safety across the board by providing well-trained and experienced workers, implementing efficient yet careful procedures and conducting sitewide risk analysis and routine safety audits.

Author Bio: Lee Beattie is Global EHS officer at NSTAR Global Services.