Jason Goetz admits to being a little jealous of fire service colleagues who ride around in big red trucks. Goetz, who coordinates the emergency response team at Intel Corporation's Chandler, AZ, semiconductor facilities, uses special equipment carts located throughout the facility to get equipment to the emergency scene.
"I liked my days (before joining Intel) as an emergency response fire protection engineer," Goetz said. "I got to fight the big petroleum fires. In training here (Intel) we get to use an extinguisher on a propane 'prop' and that's about all. Intel does offer very unique challenges I really enjoy."
In the nine months prior to this interview, Goetz's 500-member volunteer ERTs responded to only one small fire. For anything beyond what portable extinguishers and fixed fire suppression systems can handle, municipal firefighters are alerted. So, if not for fire protection, why does Article 51 of the Uniform Fire Code require that all semiconductor manufacturing facilities maintain an on-site ERT? No other industry in America is bound by such a provision.
Chemical and process water spills, not fires, take up most of ERT's actual response time. And it does not have to be a big spill to merit his immediate attention.
"At Intel, we observe what we call the six-inch rule," Goetz said. "If there is a spill greater than six inches wide, Intel workers or contractors must call out the ERT to check it out."
Equipment carts give the team easy access to equipment anywhere inside the facility. Standard equipment includes self-contained breathing apparatus, medical jump packs, oxygen and protective clothing, both encapsulated and non-encapsulated. Decontamination gear includes neutralizers, pigs, pillows, brushes and spray bottles.
On average, Intel's ERTs go into service two or more times daily. Usually, the calls involve small spills or some incident that requires medical attention. Goetz is quick to add that medical incidents are usually not
related to work. In the previous nine months, ERT responders successfully treated two cardiac arrest cases on the factory floor.
The manufacture of computer chips is an extremely safe industry, Goetz said. Beyond the requirements of Article 51, Intel's own corporate guidelines dictate that an ERT be on hand to protect workers, the community and the environment, he said. A multitude of safety engineering procedures and precautions also protects the 8,000 personnel working at the Chandler facilities.
"When we have things happen, we rely on our in-house team to protect our people," Goetz said. "This is the first thing that any corporation has to do -- protect its people."
A computer chip, also known as an integrated circuit, is a fingernail-sized device that can perform a large variety of electronic functions. In turn, this makes many of the conveniences of modern living possible. Most often,these chips are associated with personal computers. However, "discreet device" chips are found in automobiles, televisions, telephones and many other popular gadgets.
Manufacturing computer chips begins with silicon. A semi-conductive material, silicon is neither a good conductor nor insulator. That special property allows for a multitude of diodes and transistors to be compressed into one very small area. Intel's first microprocessor, shipped in 1971 for Japanese calculators, held 2,300 transistors; the 600-megahertz Pentium? III processor cartridge available today contains more than 9.5 million.
Different processes are employed to impress the desired design onto an eight inch silicon wafer - diffusion, lithography or etching. Each process presents special issues for Goetz and his teams, beginning with diffusion. A high temperature process, diffusion allows impurities to enter and move through the crystalline structure of semiconductor material to change its electrical characteristics.
"In diffusion, we are dealing with high temperature tube furnaces capable of 900 to 1,200 degrees F," Goetz said. "Obviously we have a lot of fire protection installed to meet property insurance carrier and local code requirements."
Diffusion also involves gases that can be both toxic and flammable. "We have these in specialized gas cabinets so that they are contained. From an emergency response prospective we don't have to deal with them. But we have had instances of flash fires (6" flame or less) when work is being done on a silane line and some residual is left in the line."
Lithography is the transfer of a pattern or image from one medium to another. Ordinarily, the word is associated with high quality printing. In reference to making computer chips, lithography or the "litho" process means using a mask or stencil to create a pattern on the silicon wafer. If light such as ultra violet is used to effect the transfer, the term "photolithography" applies.
The process can involve the use of flammable liquids such as isopropanol or ethyl lactate. Because this process is similar to photography, it can also involve a range of chemical developers.
Acids are used in the wet etch process. This process involves removing materials applied to a wafer such as oxides or other thin films by chemical, electrolytic or plasma (ion bombardment) means.
A worker exposed to acid without protection would suffer immediate and potentially severe burns. Hydrofluoric acid can present a different hazard. Unlike other acids, hydrofluoric is absorbed through skin and can potentially damage deep tissues without burning the surface. "The bases and acids used in the manufacturing process can provide several cleanup challenges from a hazmat prospective," Goetz said.
In any industry, these chemicals require a healthy respect. But adding a degree of difficulty for Intel ERTs is that computer chip making demands a level of cleanliness that makes a hospital operating room seem filthy by comparison.
NO SPECK TOO SMALL
At Intel, a "bunny suit" is not something you wear to liven up an Easter egg hunt. Think of those famous Intel television commercials with disco dancers covered from head to toe in colorful outfits resembling personal protective clothing. In real life, GORE-TEX? bunny suits only come in white; otherwise, the commercials accurately reflect the standard attire on the factory floor.
"In the cleanrooms where the chips are made, the size of dust particles is measured in microns," Goetz said. "That is less than the diameter of a human hair."
Complete with hoods, face masks, booties and gloves, bunny suits are part of the never-ending effort to protect chips from contaminants, human and otherwise. The maximum tolerance for dust is no more than one speck per cubic foot. One hair, skin flake or dust speck is enough to irreparably damaging the microscopic circuitry of a computer chip.
Equipment to maintain this dust-free environment takes up a major share of the "fab," or fabrication and assembly building, where the cleanroom is located. Understanding the design of a fab goes a long way in explaining the complexity of the job for Goetz and the Intel ERT.
In Chandler, Intel operates two fabs, number 6 and 12. Intel's Fab 12, one of its newest facilities, is a 1.5 million square foot building that splits into various operating levels. At ground level, the factory floor, or
cleanroom, takes up 200,000 square feet of the facility.
To a large degree, the cleanroom must function as a self-contained world. If an emergency arises, ERT responders already in place must be prepared to act rather than wait for assistance from outside.
"If someone goes down with a cardiac arrest in the cleanroom, the size of the place alone means its going to be four or five minutes before the nurse gets there," Goetz said. "Somebody who is trained in CPR can provide that immediate assistance to this person and increase that person's chance to survive."
Of the typical cleanroom shift of 250 workers, at least 30 are trained ERT responders. Another 20 ERT responders are on hand is support areas of the fab outside the cleanroom, Goetz said.
Towering above the cleanroom is a multi-level structure primarily concerned with filtering and recirculating the cleanroom air supply. To reduce the chance of contamination to the nth degree, air in the cleanroom is
completely changed 10 times per minute. This requires an elaborate system of duct work and air handlers. The attic fan alone takes up one of the upper levels.
Immediately below the factory floor is a sub-floor area to give access to process piping. It may make life easier for the engineers, but it presents special challenges for spill control.
"If you have a tool that leaks on the fab floor, that is going to run down below the raised metal floor," Goetz said. "You have to lift all these grates, then use your pigs, pillows and absorbents. If you have a spill that runs down over all the pipes, you have to make sure you thoroughly clean up that as well. Before the ERT turns that area back over to the process you want to make sure it is clean and you don't have any potential exposures."
Beneath the sub-floor is the sub-fab, a 230,000 square foot area used to store process equipment, chemical bulk storage and delivery systems. Below that is the fab basement. Because each level has pipe penetrations and other openings, an unchecked spill can travel from level to level throughout the facility, Goetz said.
"If you have a large water leak, or a large chemical leak that starts in the sub-fab, it might end up in the basement," Goetz said.
Another cleanroom environment separate from the fab is the test assembly area. Intel chips undergo extensive testing throughout the manufacturing process. At the test assembly area, a final battery of checks for electrical defects is conducted. The chip is then inserted in its permanent protective packaging and baked in high temperature ovens.
Spread over two separate campuses, Intel's operations in Chandler also include facilities for product design, warehousing, product marketing and administration. With these come challenges typical of any industrial complex.
"When you have shipping and receiving docks, transportation emergencies can happen," Goetz said. "You might have a freight carrier with a two-pallet delivery and the pallet up in the front of the truck is leaking. We have to deal with that because once they are on the property it is our responsibility to ensure our employees and the public is not impacted."
Goetz and the ERT are also responsible for protecting 7 office buildings (14 stories). With that comes its own set of the special challenges.
"You don't have chemical spills in the office space," Goetz said. "You still have to do your annual building evacuation plan. With the threat of terrorism and bomb threats, we have to have people who can respond and help evacuate those offices. You also have to be able to respond quickly to personal medical issues like chest pains."
Each one of these assignments -- the fab, assembly test area, shipping docks and offices -- require special skills from the Intel ERT. With a corporation as exacting about its products as Intel, it is no surprise that its ERT training program in Chandler is every bit as exacting.
Keeping 500 members fully certified means that the ERT classroom is busy six days a week year round. However, this is far from the typical classroom. The trainees have more than $100,000 in special equipment at their disposal, including elaborate 'props' that simulate the tasks they will be expected to accomplish on the job. For example, trainees conduct air monitoring using a sample bag containing gas to simulate a leak from a tool just as they would on the factory floor.
Goetz's training methods range from high tech to low tech. On the high tech end are the advantages that can be expected when working for the biggest name in computer chips in America.
"Since we are Intel we have lots of computers, computer programs and video projectors," Goetz said. "All of our classroom materials are electronic."
Still, sometimes the low-tech methods are still the best. When it comes to decontamination training, Goetz resorts to sprinkling flour on the protective clothing to test the students.
"If you are doing a wet decon, you let the suit dry - in Arizona with a 115 degree sun it doesn't take long - and you can see where they missed completing the decon because there is flour left dried on," Goetz said.
Decontamination skills taught in the ERT program includes decon procedures, both wet and dry, setting up a site control and establishing hot, warm, and cold zones. Trainees spend a great deal of time in Level A, B or C protective clothing, in the classroom, but thankfully more time is spent training than actually responding on the factory floor.
Every Intel facility conducts a hazard assessment to determine the level of ERT certification necessary. ecause Intel operates manufacturing operations in Chandler, ERT responders must be certified under 29 CFR 1910.120 and NFPA 472. Initial ERT training begins with an 8-hour course in first aid and CPR,
then moves on to a 40-hour HAZWOPER course in handling hazardous materials.
"Our training program is based on hazmat," Goetz said. "We have gone through and developed our curriculum to support hazmat responders and incipient level fire responders."
Topics covered in the 40-hour course break down as follows: hazardous properties of chemical products, fire safety, compressed and liquefied gas safety, atmospheric testing, personal protective equipment, decontamination procedures, site control, internal incident management procedures, and spill response and cleanup procedures.
Training for recertification is handled on a quarterly basis. First quarter recertification training focuses on air monitoring. Following this is personal protective clothing (second quarter), first aid and CPR (third
quarter) and fire safety/hazardous waste handling (fourth quarter).
The sheer volume of training makes outsourcing necessary. Goetz recruits qualified instructors through Mesa Community College. These instructors must strictly adhere to the Intel curriculum. Goetz's preference is to recruit instructors from the Chandler Fire Department and other valley fire departments that may respond to an Intel incident. Intel also uses the adjacent Chandler Fire Department Training Facility (which Intel Corporation donated seven acres of land to build) to do fire extinguisher and confined space training.
"If and when we have to call on the fire department it works out great to have a captain on the hazmat unit who teaches and knows my incident commanders and some of my team leaders," Goetz said. "The fire department understands our curriculum. They also know what fires we will and will not respond to. They know that when we call them we must have something pretty large."
Local cooperation extends beyond the relationship between Intel and the Chandler Fire Department. Intel's ERT also work with other semiconductor plants in Chandler to share training ideas and response techniques. This gives the ERT members, particularly first-year members, a broader range of experience.
For the extra effort in training and handling actual responses, members of the Intel ERT get a $300 non-cash recognition at the end of the year, Goetz said. Usually, $100 goes into the pot for a recognition event. Intel's ERT may not get to fight the big fires, but the spirit common to all volunteer industrial brigades is there to be found.
"Most of the people who participate have had previous experience with emergency response in either the military or other industries," Goetz said. "Bottom line, they have that desire to help people."