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News Intel chemical leak injures 43 workers

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Gareth Halfacree, 1 Jul 2013.

  1. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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  2. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001 [DELETE] means [DELETE]

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    There should be safety systems in place to monitor air quality all around the plant in the event of such an occurrence.

    From what I'm aware of Intel usually take worker health and safety to an almost patronising level. Which makes it surprising then that there was no safety system or it didn't trigger.

    Then again my view of America is a more relaxed approach to health and safety.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jul 2013
  3. Cerberus90

    Cerberus90 Car Spannerer

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    I'm surprised they don't have monitoring stuff too, if they're dealing with potentially fatal gasses (stop sniggering) then you'd think there'd be some system to detect it before employees start complaining of symptoms.

    I'm surprised that sort of thing isn't required by health and safety law.
     
  4. schmidtbag

    schmidtbag New Member

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    I'm not surprised Bagely didn't give more attention to the conditions of the other employees. As long as they weren't starved of oxygen, there's no way any of them would have died. Nitrogen triflouride is just simply irritating but pretty hard to die from. Flourine is a ridiculously dangerous element (the most reactive of them all), but once it's bonded in a way like nitrogen triflouride or even sulfur hexaflouride, it's nearly harmless to encounter. In other words, unless 100% of the chemical dumped inside the facility, I'm sure many of the employees exaggerated their symptoms just to get out of work. Obviously though, there's such thing as too much of anything. You can die of too much oxygen.
     
  5. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    That's simply not true. Nitrogen trifluoride is significantly more dangerous than you give it credit for: just check out this MSDS safety sheet (PDF warning) for details.

    You don't get 100% oxygen at half-hour intervals for four hours (and that's for minor inhalation) when the stuff you've been exposed to is of no risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets a nitrogen trifluoride exposure limit of just 10 parts per million for a reason, y'know...
     
    Last edited: 1 Jul 2013
  6. schmidtbag

    schmidtbag New Member

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    Interesting, what you showed has a higher health risk than what this says:
    http://www.mathesongas.com/pdfs/msds/MAT16650.pdf

    Regardless, I'm aware it's not actually safe but it isn't fatal unless it's mostly all you're breathing in, but like I said, the same can be said about almost any gas. I'm assuming it's heavier than molecular oxygen, in which case you can "drown" in it if you're not careful.
     
  7. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    I just picked the first likely-looking file that came up on a Google search for "nitrogen trifluoride coshh." The file you link isn't exactly kind to nitrogen trifluoride, though, as this extract from page one shows:
    Doesn't sound like my idea of fun, and nor does it sound "nearly harmless!"

    Re-read what I posted: the problem is not direct asphyxiation, but chemical asphyxiation. Inhale nitrogen trifluoride, and it can prevent your blood from carrying oxygen efficiently enough. The result: you asphyxiate, even though you've been moved to fresh air. The symptoms can develop anything up to several hours after initial exposure - hence the employees most directly affected by the leak being admitted to hospital for observation, to make sure they don't keel over stone dead. To date, as far as I can tell, nobody has died from nitrogen trifluoride exposure - but it's certainly possible, if you breathe in a decent amount for a short period of time and don't get medical attention.

    Sure, it can also kill you in the traditional "displaces oxygen in the air" sense, but so can any heavier-than-air (or lighter-than-air-in-a-sealed-enough-room) gas - but nitrogen trifluoride is toxic. You can get seriously ill - and potentially die, although so far the worst that has ever happened to anyone is a coma - from short-term exposure, even after having been moved out of the leak zone.

    EDIT: The LC50 (median lethal concentration) of nitrogen trifluoride is given in the MSDS you linked to as exposure to 6,700PPM for one hour. That's a pretty low concentration, and a pretty short time - and the concentration isn't high enough for traditional asphyxiation to have taken place, meaning that the cause of death would be chemical asphyxiation. Granted, that's based on it killing a rat, mostly because science councils tend to frown on using human test subjects for toxicity studies these days, but still... In contrast, the LC50 for butane is 10,325PPM over four hours' exposure, again for a rat.

    This also ignores the point, raised in the article, that the pipe was reportedly extracting used nitrogen trifluoride. The gas is used in plasma etching, where it breaks down into nitrogen and fluorine - and if there was any fluorine in the gas that the workers' inhaled, that's Serious Business. The 6,700PPM/1hr LC50 for nitrogen trifluoride? Yeah, it's 185PPM/1hr for fluorine. Like you said, it's ridiculously dangerous.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jul 2013
  8. Diellur

    Diellur New Member

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    Safety systems aren't 100% so even if they're in place, it is possible they don't trigger. This should be managed through the company's safety management system, where the safety systems are tested and maintained regularly - if they're not, the likelihood of them not working increases. Also, we don't know what mods have gone on. If the safety systems were in place for an original design, and this pipework has been re-routed due to a mod, sometimes the safety systems aren't updated in line with this. So in effect, it is possible for there not to be a safeguard in place for the leak. There are plenty of industry examples where safety systems which should have protected against an event have not operated as expected and an accident has occurred. Sadly, this is often due to human error or failures in management systems and generally not directly attributable to a failure of an engineered safeguard.

    The US use a prescriptive approach, where they demonstrate safety by complying with a set of requirements; if all those requirements are met or exceeded, then in the eyes of the law they have discharged their duty of care to keep people safe. The UK use a goal-based approach with a principle called ALARP at the heart of it (As Low As Reasonably Practicable). This requires anyone imposing a risk to reduce that risk ALARP, so even if a certain level of risk reduction is achieved by putting in a safety system if further risk reduction is possible without being excessively costly then the duty holder is legally obligated to do so (or he must have a robust rational for why he hasn't). Again, even with the best safeguards in place, a poor management system can lead to the safeguards being eroded over time.
     
  9. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001 [DELETE] means [DELETE]

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    The bottom line is Intel failed their employees. How that happened is anyone's guess. The exact details will never come out.
     
  10. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

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    While you're probably correct, I've seen enough totally off-the-wall, unpredictable accidents to give the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise. Things like two completely separate systems failing on an aircraft in a way no one has ever seen before while landing on a short, icy runway, or a multi-ton air conditioner unit sliding down a 3/4" steel cable for 100 yards until it decides to fall off and squish somebody. Most accidents are preventable, but sometimes life just decided you're screwed.
     
  11. Diellur

    Diellur New Member

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    It depends on the regulatory regime in the US. I would expect the opposite, as any industrial accident of this magnitude should trigger an investigation and subsequent report. Whether we see it is another matter; it won't arrive for many months and by then we'll have probably forgotten about this incident. Legally, it is extremely unlikely that this will be just swept under the rug...Intel may try, if they are inclined that way (which i doubt, not in the US anyway) but the authorities get the final say.
     
  12. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001 [DELETE] means [DELETE]

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    Thats only what has made it to the news.

    Their record is bad enough for me to not give the benefit of the doubt.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jul 2013
  13. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001 [DELETE] means [DELETE]

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    Your right that there will be an investigation and a report and hopefully some sort of mitigation strategy. Its unlikely that any of that will make the news though. Which was the intention of what I said. Not some sort of conspiracy theory style cover up.
     
  14. Diellur

    Diellur New Member

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    Well, you said "the exact details will never come out", which has somewhat sinister and conspiracy-like overtones. :)
     
  15. Xir

    Xir Well-Known Member

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    Actually, considering the enormous amount of dangerous chemicals and processes used in the Semiconductor industry, the percentage of accidents is rather low.
     

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