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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another Electrical Near Fatality at LANL Involving a Post-Doc


Colleagues:

Last Friday evening (3/13/15), there was an electrical incident in one of the P-Div labs at TA-53. A postdoc noticed a “tingling” when he was working on the (supposedly) grounded case of a stepper motor. Upon investigation he found ~60 volts a.c. on the outside of the case. The investigation is ongoing, so many details are not known.

The points that I want to make are twofold:

1) He was not expecting anything to be amiss, but received a shock anyway. It occurred Friday evening, when there are very few people around. Having said that, you can understand how this could have ended up very badly. My expectation is that if you are doing any lab work after hours ,that there be another person in the near vicinity.

2) As it turns out, he doesn’t appear to exhibit any ill effects, although his Deputy Group leader is taking him to Occ. Med. as a precaution. However, no one was notified until Monday morning. Anytime any untoward electrical event happens (or any safety related event for that matter), someone in your line management must be notified as soon as practical. By notification, I mean talking to a human being; voice mail, email, texts, etc. are insufficient. Your line manager will then follow up by notifying me and the FOD; both of which are required. You and your line management need to jointly ensure that you know how to contact them whenever a safety event occurs. This can be by posting numbers in your workspaces or putting them into your cellphone. If you can’t find them, my Blackberry number is appended below.

Please be safe out there and if you ever have a question as to whether you should let your line management know about a concern, then the answer is yes, let them know. Telling us about something that requires no action is much better than the opposite.

Doug

R. Douglas Fulton, Ph.D.
Division Leader
Physics Division
Los Alamos National Laboratory

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come on, 60V AC and a tingling.

Next we hear about a near fatal accident with a paperclip.

Get real and report something noteworthy. Just because you don't like Doug (you must be in Pdiv) or LANL in general, does not mean you need to report this kind of nonevent.

Anonymous said...

"It's the same old day in and day out safety and security issues at Los Alamos"

Dr. Victor Reis, former Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, DP-1, Department of Energy, 1997

Anonymous said...

It appears that P-division has no policies or procedures to prevent a Post Doc from working in the Lab by himself. Next time they might not be so lucky. Good try Fulton, but you should be fired for this near-miss.

Anonymous said...

"It's the same old day in and day out safety and security issues at Los Alamos"

Dr. Victor Reis, former Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, DP-1, Department of Energy, 1997

March 20, 2015 at 7:03 AM

Vic Reis also said that the passivization of the labs has been a failure.

Anonymous said...

Get real and report something noteworthy. Just because you don't like Doug (you must be in P div) or LANL in general, does not mean you need to report this kind of nonevent.

March 19, 2015 at 7:47 PM

An example of the "cowboy" mentality at Los Alamos. Unfortunately, every safety and security incident is regarded as a "nonevent" by the folks at Los Alamos.

Anonymous said...

"...Please be safe out there and if you ever have a question as to whether you should let your line management know about a concern, then the answer is yes, let them know. Telling us about something that requires no action is much better than the opposite..."

Very thoughtful.

Sometimes the LANSLLNS management response to confirmed safety concerns is "no action", and "telling" them about a concern may create an unwarranted "action" toward the messenger. Raising safety concerns in good faith is not lab wide consequence free, but perhaps encouraged and embraced in your Division.

Despite all the safety talking points, unless LANSLLNS management has a "come to Jesus" type course correction on our poor safety culture track record and the embedded system that enables it, expect more "near miss" reports, minor accidents, and serious accidents.

Tracking and discussing non-fatal accidents, (precursors), as you have, can help prevent major accidents or fatalities. This fact is not evident to all.

Thanks for your thoughts. I hope your ideal safety culture suggestions gets some traction in the near future.

You have respectfully referred to us as "Colleagues", but too often employees raising safety concerns are instead identified as "Not a Team Player". This nullifies all the paper thin Lab safety talking points and is another precursor element to major accidents. Your comments excluded.

Anonymous said...

From the memo, it appears that the case was not properly grounded. Was under the impression that there was a lab-wide inventory of all electrical equipment (2010?) and all the non-compliant junk was disposed of. Maybe P Division was exempt from this exercise by their AD at the time.

Anonymous said...

It appears that P-division has no policies or procedures to prevent a Post Doc from working in the Lab by himself. Next time they might not be so lucky. Good try Fulton, but you should be fired for this near-miss.

March 20, 2015 at 7:10 AM


Not being mean here, but just reporting observations. The policy may be in place, but only communicated to post docs in English. That doesn't always work so well for some Divisions.

Anonymous said...

Good try Fulton, but you should be fired for this near-miss.

March 20, 2015 at 7:10 AM

Oh Christ, man, get over yourself. The outrage dujour. Yawn. Like he could have personally prevented this minor mishap. I guess if the postdoc slipped and cut himself with an exacto knife (a much more serious incident), Fulton should be drawn and quartered. What ever happened to common sense and perspective? Everyone who complained about the Tiger Teams has joined them! Bring out the torches and pitchforks! Management Bad! Management Bad! Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Doug is one of the very few managers at LANL who is worth his salt.

Anonymous said...

March 21, 2015 at 7:33 PM

Touched a nerve, huh? A little thin-skinned, are we?

Anonymous said...

"Touched a nerve, huh? A little thin-skinned, are we?

March 21, 2015 at 9:25 PM"

A tad bitter on your part? Come on be honest tell us how you are so much better than all those damm eggheads! Let is hear about how the labs could not recognize you as a genius.

Anonymous said...

People work after 5 pm? And on a Friday? He was definitely up to no good.

The parking lots are cleared out by 4pm most days. Doesn't this post doc have a life? Didn't his fellow associates at the lab inform him that putting in extra hours at the lab is not only dangerous for your career but a stupid waste of your valuable time, too?

He'll never be staff member quality, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

Let is hear about how the labs could not recognize you as a genius.

March 21, 2015 at 9:32 PM

See, the thing about not being thin-skinned is that I don't give a flip how the labs "recognize" me. Their opinion matters not at all in my life.

Anonymous said...

See, the thing about not being thin-skinned is that I don't give a flip how the labs "recognize" me. Their opinion matters not at all in my life.

March 22, 2015 at 10:17 AM

And you are commenting here why?

Anonymous said...


And you are commenting here why?

March 22, 2015 at 2:37 PM

I don't care about the labs, it is amazing how much I do not care. Late at night I get up and think about how much I don't care about what the lab did to me. They think they are are important, smart, and have money but the truth is no one cares about the labs... no one and certainly not me!

Anonymous said...

Are you a LLC officer?

Anonymous said...

March 22, 2015 at 5:47 PM was trying to be cute. He apparently is consumed by some dastardly deed done to him by the labs and cannot believe that there are people like March 22, 2015 at 10:17 AM who are so completely over the labs that they have no reason to be concerned about what the labs think. It's am unhealthy obsession.

Anonymous said...

Letting an employer define your value or importance is not a good idea in general, dastardly deed or overflowing praise, either way. Address what you can address, but compartmentalize along the way. Seek perspective or the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

"10:17 AM who are so completely over the labs that they have no reason to be concerned about what the labs think.

March 22, 2015 at 8:21 PM"

10:17 is so over the lab that they need to post every day about how horrible the lab is and how they don't care. The could care less about all those undeserving lab workers, they no longer even think about the labs, and they post over and over again about this. They hang out at the coffee shops in town say how pathetic scientists are and that they don't care about the labs. In the supermarket lines they say they don't give a dam about the labs and all the f*ing eggheads that infest they place. In the any public session they go and on about how they no longer care about the labs and that the people that work at the labs are the worse of the worse. You nailed when you said that 10:17 is just so over the lab that is not even funny, and that is how funny it is.

Anonymous said...

Urgency is not applicable to minor incidents which this appears to be..just a tingle that needs to be attended to. Kinda like bumping your head..

Anonymous said...

Oh come on...these days if you aren't red-faced, outraged, and screaming for the heads of everyone who offends you (and you are, after all, so easily offended), then you aren't taken seriously. At least on reality-challenged blogs.

Anonymous said...



Oh come on...these days if you aren't red-faced, outraged, and screaming for the heads of everyone who offends you (and you are, after all, so easily offended), then you aren't taken seriously. At least on reality-challenged blogs.

March 29, 2015 at 10:01 AM

Where is the outrage?

John Mclaughlin said...

It really has to be concerning that electrical wiring is able to be handled without any supervision. I personally am glad to hear that the gentleman that was injured is okay and isn't showing signs of illness. Something that stands out is that it sounds like there are a lot of different things that could happen when you get shocked. Honestly, it does make sense to have concern because even though it was only 60 volts it could have easily been more, resulting in a more fatal situation. Thank you for sharing.

http://www.nicholaselectric.com/Electrical-Repair-Pittsburgh-PA.html

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