Occupational Exposure Characterization of Vacuum Pump Maintenance Technicians in a Semiconductor Industry
Nicole Drew Reilly, MPH - Hewlett Packard Co. , Catherine Neumann, Ph.D., Asst. Prof. - Oregon State University , Annette MacKay Rossignol, Sc.D., Prof. - Oregon State University , Deborah Buser - Oregon State University (SSA Journal Volume 12 Number 1 - Spring 1998 pp. 25 - 40 )

In the semiconductor industry, numerous potential occupational exposures exist as a result of the diversity of chemical and physical hazards unique to the manufacturing of integrated circuits. As a result of frequent process changes, it is difficult to assure that occupational exposure data is current. It is particularly challenging to characterize the hazards associated with maintenance tasks as the sporadic nature of the work makes it difficult to prepare for exposure monitoring. Perhaps some of the most potentially hazardous maintenance tasks are those associated with vacuum pump maintenance (VPM) due to the close contact with chemical waste gases and residues. The purpose of this study was to conduct a hazard assessment of the VPM technicians within one semiconductor facility and to characterize their chemical and physical occupational exposures during routine maintenance activities. A qualitative job hazard analysis (JHA) was conducted through task observations. Based on the observations of the JHA, an exposure monitoring protocol was developed to quantify both chemical and noise exposures. Personal and area air samples of potential waste gases were conducted during maintenance tasks. Representative noise sampling was conducted over the period of a month to characterize noise exposures. No significant chemical levels were obtained during the tasks monitored. The VPM technicians handled a variety of waste residues. Bulk samples of these waste residues were collected and are currently being analyzed. Noise samples revealed that 43% of the samples were above the 80 dBA action limit thus requiring the VPM technicians to be involved in a hearing conservation program. Field observations revealed that there were many chemical hazards associated with waste gases and residues, therefore it is likely that occupational exposure occur even though they were not detected in this study. Specific improvements in personal protective equipment, general work practices, ergonomics, and engineering controls will help to reduce the potential for occupational exposure unique to VPM. Results from this study indicate the need to conduct in depth hazard evaluations of high risk populations such as the VPM technicians.