N.C. Dept. of Labor fines Wolfspeed for accidental worker death


The N.C. Dept. of Labor has fined Wolfspeed $27,553 for violations that resulted in a worker death in October 2022. 

NCDOL alleges Wolfspeed violated the N.C. Occupational Safety and Health Act. The silicon-carbide chip manufacturer was charged with two counts of violations, each one carrying a maximum penalty of $14,502.

In October 2022, Vincent Farrell, 45, died on the job at Wolfspeed facility in Durham due to electrocution.

“Wolfspeed continues to mourn the loss of our colleague, and our profound and heartfelt sympathies remain with his family, friends and Wolfspeed team members," Melinda Walker, Wolfspeed’s director of corporate communications, told the News + Record Friday. "We believe providing a safe work environment is the most fundamentally important thing that we do for our employees. Their safety, health and overall wellbeing has been — and will continue to be — our number one priority."  

According to the investigation, Farrell contacted an exposed coil with his hand as he entered a substation alone and "became the path to the ground," meaning the electrical current went through his body.  He was declared dead at the scene when emergency personnel arrived.

Investigators said Farrell “did not put on his ARC flash gear to include gloves as he attempted to test the buss conductors.”

"The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life," said NCDOL Director of Communications Erin Wilson.

Wolfspeed now has 15 days to request an informal conference with the Labor Department, to file a notice of contest with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission of North Carolina (an independent board appointed by the governor to hear appeals of OSH citations), or to pay the penalty.

NCDOL said Wolfspeed “did not select and require employee(s) to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands were exposed to hazards.” 

“Working in areas where there were potential electrical hazards were not using electrical protective equipment that was appropriate for the specific parts of the body to be protected and for the work to be performed,” the NCDOL report added.

In a statement to the News + Record Friday, Wolfspeed said they remain committed to workplace safety.

"We appreciate the care, dedication and collaboration that the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health division exercised throughout every stage of this investigation and the opportunity we had to share the steps Wolfspeed has taken to ensure our facility meets or exceeds all standards," Walker said.

Full copy of the NCDOL Report:

Wolfspeed plans to build a facility at the CAM site in Siler City with a promise of $5 billion in economic investment and 1,800 new jobs over the next two decades.

The company was also highlighted in a recent visit to Durham by President Joe Biden, who praised the chip manufacturer and toured the Durham facility. Biden touted the CHIPS and Sciences Act, which incentivizes more American-made silicon carbide chips.

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at brappaport@chathamnr.com or on Twitter @b_rappaport 

Wolfspeed, Vincent Farrell, NCDOL, workplace death, electrocution