back to article Toxic: Intel ordered to pay chip fab worker almost $1m after he was gassed at its facility in 2016

Intel must pay nearly $1.2m after a ruling in a lawsuit alleging injury caused by a toxic gas emission at one of its facilities. Despite Chipzilla's attempts to dismiss the suit, Arizona district judge David Campbell found in favour [PDF] of Ahmad Alsadi to the tune of $921,188 and his wife, Youssra Lahlou, for $250,000 in a …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    We have well-documented processes

    Page 1 Note chemical alarms keep going off, remove them

    Pages 2-100 instructions for removing chemical alarms and paperwork necessary to obtain refunds for returned alarms

    1. Snake Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: We have well-documented processes

      "Page 1 Note chemical alarms keep going off, remove them

      Wow, not a single lesson learned from Bhopal, then. :-(

      And we just keep making the same mistakes. Over and over and over and over and over again.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: We have well-documented processes

        We have learned from our mistakes and can repeat them perfectly

      2. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: We have well-documented processes

        The lessons learned from Bhopal are that it's better to subcontract operations and shift the risk to smaller entities, and that the possible penalty is less costly than following all proper procedures all the time.

  2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Safety

    "

    An Intel spokesperson told The Register: "Intel has a well-known safety culture and the safety and well-being of our workforce is our top priority. We have well-documented processes and safety measures we expect all workers to follow. We are disappointed in this decision and we continue to believe that we acted properly."

    "

    My chemistry teacher told me that H2S is more toxic than HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide). How does Intel justify the removal of the HCN detectors which also detected H2S? Was that really acting properly? I'm surprised they did not suggest their staff invest in caged canaries. The plaintiffs should have gone for punitive damages, i.e. so much that Intel would make sure that it never happens again.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Safety

      "the safety and well-being of our workforce is our top priority."

      I guess their priorities keep changing to suit the circumstances then. A few years back it was all about security being their "top priority" when the security leaks in their CPUs were the talk of the town.

    2. Schultz
      Boffin

      "H2S is more toxic than HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide)"

      But the strong smell of H2S makes it highly unlikely that you stay around to be poisoned. That's why cyanide is considered so dangerous (it smells like almonds and won't make you run away).

      1. Dusty

        Re: "H2S is more toxic than HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide)"

        The problem is,

        With H2S, the first thing that happens when the gas reaches toxic levels is that you lose your sense of smell and cant smell it any more. (It paralyses the nasal nerves)

        My understanding is that in traditional working environments where H2S was considered a constant danger (Petrochemical plants and oil refineries) the rule always was that if anybody stopped smelling the rotten eggs, they hit the gas alarm button.

      2. atropine blackout

        Re: "H2S is more toxic than HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide)"

        H2S is only 'smellable' at low concentrations (typically a few tens of ppm).

        At higher concentrations, it becomes very poisonous very quickly, as the regular death toll associated with drilling sites and enclosed spaces/ vessels confirms.

        Quite why Intel thought that running the show without at least *some* H2S detection when they knew of the hazard is a touch surprising.

        Incidentally, this means that, as happened to me in a Russian Refinery, you suddenly stop smelling background H2S and you don't have BA gear, your next move is neither obvious nor trivial. In our case we retraced our steps and avoided what turned out to be a fairly lively gas leak. Blind luck.

        1. eionmac

          Re: "H2S is more toxic than HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide)"

          I was instructed when in a then Czechoslovakia refinery as a contractor, to immediately seek safety

          (?how never explained) if background H2S smell disapeared.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A common approach

    "It opted for fixed monitors for hydrogen cyanide instead. However, the presence of H2S tripped those alarms so Intel removed them."

    I was once required to implement a bank of 100 amp power supplies in the unventilated loft of a steel barn building. I was overruled when I specified forced ventilation, so I installed thermal trips on key components to prevent burnouts. I later heard they'd bypassed the thermal trips because the PSUs were shutting down too often.

    In a similar vein, a key contributor to the UK Buncefield fuel depot explosion was omission of a padlock on the control lever of an emergency pumping shutoff switch. In its absence the lever fell into an inoperative test position. They thought the padlock was just an anti-tamper precaution, so they didn't bother to fit it, and nobody ever checked whether this critical safety device actually worked.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A common approach

      Piper Alpha:

      Disable firefighting pumps when divers are in water

      Put manual pump controls in control room

      Put control room above gas compressor

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: A common approach

        Having worked on an oil rig & the company I worked for lost someone in that incident (I have a nasty feeling with hindsight I was the replacement) I regret I can't upvote you more than once.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: A common approach

          I seem to recall a similar 'approach' to safety described in the documentaries on the Deepwater Horizon rig that failed in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust your nose

    That's "OK" for very low levels of H2S. However, you can't smell it at dangerous levels.

    1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

      Re: Trust your nose

      They told us basically to trust our nose.

      If you can't smell it anymore, you are already dead.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Trust your nose

        If you can't smell it anymore, you are now a dead man walking.

        FTFY - No charge. Guessing the down vote comes from Intel management.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Reactions such as Intel's are for too common. Courts should react by reopening the cases, demand an explanation and, if not satisfied, double the award and add a matching fine for contempt of court. Repeat as needed if they still complain until either they're bankrupt or somebody catches on to the consequences of repeated doubling.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intel used to have good processes

    I worked for a company which supplied to one of Intel's fabs fifteen years ago. Our service engineer had to do two days of Intel safety-training before he was allowed onto the site, and another day of in-person training when he got there. He described it as the safest site he'd ever worked on, with everyone motivated to keep it that way. The company took safety seriously.

    Intel's new CEO should look at getting back to this culture. Given that the incident was in 2016, he may have a lot of work to do.

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Intel used to have good processes

      It might be the people in charge at this particular site are the problem. The article listed bad decision after bad decision at management level and below. Perhaps a little local house cleaning is in order.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intel used to have good processes

      It's possible that you still need three days of safety training to be on site, and as a result of this lawsuit, you'll soon need four days of training. Sometimes safety training is just paper to try and repel lawsuits.

      There has to be a happy medium between "you need steel toe boots everywhere in case someone rolls into your foot with an office chair" and "we have a process that spews toxic gasses into big fans pointed your direction and we decided detectors are a bother, so good luck".

      1. FILE_ID.DIZ Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: Intel used to have good processes

        you need steel toe boots everywhere in case someone rolls into your foot with an office chair

        This made me chuckle. My second "proper" IT job when I was much younger, I was hired at a big-ass company. When they issued me a hardhat and back belt, I asked what they were for and I was told I had to wear them anytime I went under a desk, such as installing a PC or plugging in network cable, so on and such forth.

        My job before that was working at a small ISP (this was in the mid 90s) I'd stand on a wheeled chair to move drop ceiling tiles from time to time because that was quicker than finding the ladder.

        I didn't last long at the big-ass company. Hard hats for going under a desk? Sorry, not for me.

        1. my farts clear the room
          Happy

          Re: Intel used to have good processes

          Obligatory desk rabbit reference:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe9bBjJx4Lo

          The hard hat is to protect you from the beating when you're discovered .......

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Intel used to have good processes

            Fortunately the lady that liked to rub one off with her heel, never caught me.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Intel used to have good processes

          "Hard hats for going under a desk? Sorry, not for me."

          Odds are the extra height added by the hard hat increased the number head bumps from almost zero (no hard hat) to every fricken time (with hard hat)

        3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Intel used to have good processes

          Not quite as bad as a certain Dutch based company, that has a logo frequently found on beaches (Icon has the rough shape of that logo).

          Mirrors on corridor corners, heavy duty gloves for opening packing boxes with a knife, using stairs without one hand on a handrail, throwing something in jest at a colleague (& observed by a walk in manager at that moment resulted in an instant termination).

          Lack of available desk spaces & with my head hunched over\between shelves to image laptops & do the day to day work of signing into my corporate account on one of those laptops, not so much.

  7. Kurt 5

    Hardhats

    Many years ago I worked for a "large government contractor at a large government site." Mandatory safety training (including nuclear materials). Hardhats were required everywhere. Our office was the first floor of a large warehouse. Construction had been going on for a while on the floor above us -- all sorts of stuff happening above our drop ceiling. Coworker got up from his desk to get something and we heard a THUMP followed by "Look out!". 6' piece of metal pipe/rebar had come through the drop ceiling and impaled his chair. That was a LOT of paperwork. One of the first questions was "did he have his hardhat on?" Like that would have helped.

    Those were fun times -- mandatory "random" drug testing. Being sent to "team training" as punishment. Overriding the speed governor of the golfcarts used to get around some areas of the site (go fast in reverse then slam into drive).

    1. Brad Ackerman
      FAIL

      Re: Hardhats

      I've heard of closed-area penetration, but this one seems a bit excessive.

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Hardhats

      A colleague of mine did a security audit of a customer site. On the first floor, in the middle of the room was the large firesafe, containing all of the important documents, server backups etc.

      On the ground floor, directly underneath the sagging ceiling was the reception desk. I'm not sure that a 'hard hat' would have saved the receptionist.

      He made everyone avoid the centre of the first floor, remove the contents from the firesafe, move it so that it was right next to a supporting, structural pillar before the receptionist was allowed back to post. After all, a firesafe falling through the floor onto the reception desk would probably have made the six O'Clock news, and we wouldn't want that now, would we?

      My own experience was when we moved a firesafe from the 3rd floor to the first floor. It just fitted into the lift. The button was pressed for the first floor, and the team watched as it continued down to the basement. Lift out of service for about 2 weeks, but on the bright side, climbing the stairs was good for our health.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Hardhats

        Similar to the Nissan story.

        https://forums.theregister.com/post/search/?q=strawberry+cheesecake

  8. JohnHMorris

    Over a certain very low concentration one cannot smell H2S anymore. Because it burns out your nasal receptors. And at just about 200 ppm you might die, certainly by 500 ppm. H2S isn't uncommon - and can be produced by rotting organic matter - a hazard for sewer workers. It's also often found in natural gas (known as "sour gas") - and a huge hazard. Also it's heavier than air - which means once in a while you hear about some cross country skiers in Alberta, Canada who on a beautiful day ski into a dip in oil country. And never leave. So H2S easy to make and deadly. If there was a risk sensors would be essential.

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ Bronze badge
      Trollface

      known as "sour gas"

      Ahh.. that's why some pressure gauges are sour gas rated. I assumed it meant that it was capable of dealing with the hangover farts from the grunt looking at the gauge.

      1. JohnHMorris

        Among its many lovely properties H2S is also extremely corrosive to regular steel.

  9. David Glasgow

    Here's an interesting thing about hydrogen sulphide

    Can't be arsed to check if it's already been said, so apologies if it has. In low concentrations it is instantly recognisable by the rotten egg shell. In high concentrations it is almost immediately odourless.

    So not much point on relying on employees to smell something badly wrong. Only slightly wrong.

  10. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

    If he has health problems now, those could become much worse in his 50's, 60's and if he is lucky enough, even 70's.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Maybe Intel are hoping for an early death, as 'death in service' benefits are generally a lot cheaper than medical care for a long and, sadly in his case, tortured, life.

  11. Sceptic Tank Bronze badge
    Holmes

    Here on the highveld

    Just read an article (This article) about sulpher dioxide blowing over Johannesburg and Pretoria from power stations and Sasol in Secunda.

  12. cosmodrome
    Alert

    Criminal neglectance

    The first thing H2S in the right concentration will affect is your sense of smell. So whoever decided to turn off H2S monitoring should have his balls nailed to the factory gate.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Criminal neglectance

      While still attached to them.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Sherrie Ludwig

    permanent persistent cough, coughing fits, bronchospasms, and post-tussive emesis

    Post-tussive emesis = coughing hard enough to vomit. Yeah, been there for a week once with bronchitis, would not wish it on my worst enemy. If he has it permanently, one mill is not even close to enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Post-tussive emesis

      whoa, didn't realize that was a thing.

      Happened to me a few times since getting sick with something Covid-like a year ago. The constant choking feeling and controlling every breath, that takes a toll.

      I wouldn't be that guy for 10 million dollars and a chocolate cheesecake.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nasty stuff.

    I work in a fab as a specialist looking after the spec gases and we use pure Hydrogen Sulphide in one process. Unfortunately most, including site 'management', there think of stink bombs at school or curried farts and treat it's safety requirements as a big joke. Only those who've seen what it can do, experienced it and survived or have professional H&S qualifications take it seriously.

  16. Conundrum1885

    H2S

    Also produced by overcharging large format flooded lead acid batteries typically used in industry.

    It sometimes happens on vehicles as well and smelling rotten eggs is a bad sign indicating a serious battery problem like a partially shorted cell or a faulty charging circuit.

    https://www.wftv.com/news/local/hydrogen-sulfide-inhalation-from-car-battery-killed-mother-daughter-medical-examiner-says/453434135/

    https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/535383-hydrogen-sulfide-smell-from-charging-battery/

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