Managing Fire Safety in High-Tech Industries: Case Study of Semiconductor Companies in Taiwan

By Lin, Yi-Chun; Yang, Chyan | International Journal of Management, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Managing Fire Safety in High-Tech Industries: Case Study of Semiconductor Companies in Taiwan


Lin, Yi-Chun, Yang, Chyan, International Journal of Management


The high-technology industries have been developed in Taiwan for about twenty years and carry great weight in the world. However several severe fire and earthquake disasters that the semiconductor companies have encountered have caused them to suffer uncountable damages and losses of properties, for which the fire underwriters have paid huge compensation. As a result, most foreign fire underwriters are very cautious in accepting re-insurance for the semiconductor companies of Taiwan. This research begins with the analysis of the building characteristics of plant and the potential dangers therein. Then it designs an effective safety system for such plants, which may help prevent disasters or lower the loss arising.

1. Introduction

As of 1999 the IC fabless of Taiwan came to the second world largest in terms of number of affiliates and scale, and the third semiconductor production country in the world. In recent years the semiconductor industry in Taiwan prospers, but it also carries the highest recorded amount of property insurance compensation. Since the semiconductor industry requires huge capital investment investors are interested in its business. In addition, continuous research and innovation of products and processes create the need of upgrading production lines or equipment. These upgrading activities call for heavy investment. Thus the semiconductor industry is quite risky and the investment should be protected. Therefore the fire disaster often cause to the high-tech industry serious losses, including vanishment of long-term plan, plant and equipment; rising of insurance rate and costs for investment; decline of product image and orders; and disorder of company management. This research has made a physical survey on 35 manufacturers in order to realize the points of accidents and existing disadvantages wherein. The potential hazardous factors in factory plants are then analyzed and the prevention, stopping and control measures for hazards are designed with fire risk analysis, quality management of plant safety facility, technologies, management strategy and the method of participative disaster prevention system. Hopefully, it is the channel to achieve the goal of industrial safety.

2. Characteristics of the buildings of the semiconductor industry

Mostly, semiconductor industry plants are characterized by enclosed structure. Wide floor and higher and larger space with machines and instruments spread all over and small density of person. The hazards created wherein may be different from each other depending on inside air circulation, complicity of manufacturing processes, interwoven with different tubes and pipes, working 24 hours, and the high-unit price equipment that are sensitive to water and smoke, and the hazardousness of chemical substance used or toxic gases. Utilizing high-temperature inspections, detection and processes.

Dust-free rooms characteristics are isolated spaces with less doors and windows. In the design stage, when an incident is confirmed, the ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) inside the whole room will be able to shut off, making the smoke and heat not easily to dissipate out of the room. To decrease air flowing and pollutant entrance, these requirements would require zigzagged surfaces and longer walking distance to refuges so that they create difficulties for persons to evacuate and prolong the time for escaping from disasters. Different kinds of equipment in dust-free rooms and plants are expensive, and most electronic machines are not waterproof, therefore, the conventional fire extinguishers and "water" are unusable for fire rescue.

3. Disasters and fire hazardous factors of semiconductor industry

3.1 Loss of particular fire case

During 1985 through 1994, the worldwide loss of semiconductor industry in disaster amounted to 152,538,000 U.S. dollars. In the U.S.A., Factory Mutual System Insurance Inc. made a ten-year disaster statistics (1986 through 1996) that revealed the numbers as follows: total 260 cases in dust-free rooms wherein the fire and explosion occupy 60%, liquid leakage, 29%, erosive liquid leakage, 6% and other, 5% (Mathis, 1997). …

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