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U.S. Semiconductor Equipment Companies Analyzed Separately in BLS Annual Survey for the First Time

Contributed by Dr. Don Lassiter, Occupational Health Systems, December 2004

After more than 30 years of “invisibility” in the nation-wide “Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses” performed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the “Semiconductor machinery manufacturing” industry has been included as a separate category (NAISC code 333295) in the latest BLS Survey (2003 survey year). Since 1972 (the initial year of the BLS Annual Survey) the manufacture of semiconductor manufacturing equipment was relegated by the BLS to a “catch-all” industrial classification category of “Specialized industry machinery, not elsewhere classified” under the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.

The non-specific SIC classification code (“3559”) assigned to this group of over 60 “specialized machinery manufacturers” included: “Ozone machines,” “Pottery making machinery,” “Cement making machinery,” “Fur sewing machines,” and “Cotton gins.” Obviously, the work injury and illness experience of this diverse group of “specialized equipment manufacturing” industries did not constitute a credible “benchmark” for the semiconductor equipment manufacturing industry.

This situation has now been rectified with the adoption of the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) by the BLS to replace the SIC coding system beginning with the 2003 Annual Survey. In the NAICS, the “Semiconductor machinery manufacturing” industry has been assigned its own code: “333295.” Hence, beginning with the 2003 BLS survey, semiconductor equipment manufacturers have a nationally recognized statistical metric with which to compare their own company’s performance. For the 2003 survey year, the incidence of work injuries and illnesses for the semiconductor equipment manufacturing industry was 2.0 cases per 100 “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employees. This incidence rate was less than one-third of the BLS rate for “All manufacturing” of 6.8. The rate was just slightly higher than the BLS rate for “semiconductor manufacturing” of 1.6.

The BLS annual surveys are based on a representative, statistical “sample” of each industry that includes companies/facilities of all employment sizes. The statistical “benchmarks” (i.e., “incidence rates”) published by the BLS are for: (1) total cases, (2) cases with days away from work and (3) cases with job transfer or restriction. Hence, the published rates, albeit industry-wide in scope, are statistically “impoverished” for individual companies looking for detailed benchmarks with which to compare their own illness and injury performance.

SEMI Work Illness and Injury Benchmark System

Awareness of this deficiency was the primary reason that the SEMI “Work Injury and Illness Benchmarking System” program was initiated in 2000 at the request of major semiconductor equipment manufacturing companies. The SEMI Benchmarking program is designed to provide participating companies with literally hundreds of composite incidence rates in contrast to the three incidence rates provided by the BLS survey.

For participating SEMI companies, the practical significance of the BLS survey results is in comparing the results of the two surveys for purposes of national credibility. For example, the BLS rate for 2003 of 2.0 is close to the SEMI survey rate of 1.6. Although the companies selected by the BLS for their survey were not disclosed, it is estimated that SEMI survey companies comprised the major portion of BLS survey associated with the semiconductor equipment manufacturing industry. This means that the detailed data collected in the 2003 SEMI Benchmarking survey have a national, industry-wide applicability and are representative of the actual work injury and illness experience of the workers in this industry.

The SEMI “Work Illness and Injury Benchmarking System” program is being continued in 2005, and U.S. companies that wish to consider the benefits of participation should contact either Dr. Don Lassiter or Sanjay Baliga at SEMI.