Samsung workers treated for exposure to radiation in South Korea

Workplace safety org identifies 26 hazards in the chipmaking process

Two workers at a Samsung Electronics chip plant in South Korea have been treated for exposure to radiation.

A notice posted on Wednesday by South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission revealed that it is investigating an incident that occurred May 27 at Samsung's Giheung campus.

The notice states that two workers' fingers were exposed to radiation, leading to their hospitalization. Abnormal symptoms have been detected in the pair, but the Commission revealed their blood tests have delivered normal results and no chromosomal abnormalities have been detected.

The Nuclear Commission points out that Samsung holds a license to employ X-ray fluorescence, a non-destructive technique used to analyze semiconductor wafers.

Local media report the workers reported swollen fingers and red spots on their hands, and that Samsung immediately offered appropriate assistance and reported the situation to the Commission.

Just what went wrong has not been revealed. The regulator also plans further investigation of Samsung's Giheung campus.

The campus is a sprawling affair, located around 40km south of South Korea's capital, Seoul. In 2022, Samsung announced it would host a new semiconductor research and development facility, alongside the existing manufacturing center.

Samsung operates at least three foundries in its home country, and fifteen R&D centers.

Even if this incident disrupts the Giheung facility it may not, therefore, have wide supply chain implications. Indeed, at the time of writing Samsung appears not to have made any public statements about disruptions to its operations as a result of this incident.

It does, however, highlight the complex and risky processes involved in production of advanced semiconductors. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the industry presents at least 26 classes of known hazards.

OSHA's guidance suggests X-ray exposure is a risk during mask alignment and photo exposure – a part of the semiconductor manufacturing process during which patterns are etched onto a silicon substrate. ®

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