Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Beaker blast injures LANL worker

Publication:Santa Fe New Mexican; Date:Jun 1, 2005; Section:Santa Fe ElNorte; Page Number:11



Beaker blast injures LANL worker
Undergraduate student also suffers minor cuts from explosion


By DIANA HEIL
The New Mexican




A Los Alamos National Laboratory post-doctoral researcher and an undergraduate student suffered injuries when a small beaker exploded in the researcher’s hand Friday, spewing glass against their bodies.

After visits to Los Alamos Medical Center, the student returned promptly to work, but the researcher did not.

[...]

Full Story


Comments:
Seems like a whole lot of print for a very minor incident. Of course Diana Heil and the New Mexican are overtly anti-LANL so this what one should expect from them.
 
Seems pretty damn sensational:

"...small beaker exploded in the researcher’s hand Friday, spewing glass against their bodies."
 
Would you think that if it was your child that had to endure something like this? Or choke it up to "that comes with the job."
 
We did worse than this in the high school chemistry lab.

Look! This is not a matter of insensitivity, this is a matter of looking at the way that the local and national press treats LANL.
 
This incident clearly shows that LANL has a deep rooted cultural problem. If it did not than why is that we are always in the news? Accidents like this just do not happen at other places, if they did the news would report them.
 
"Would you think that if it was your child that had to endure something like this? Or choke it up to 'that comes with the job.'"

Sounds like you need a hug.

The fact is that there are some jobs that are more dangerous than others. If you don't like the risk, than don't participate. No one is forcing you (or your child) to do anything. This was a post-doc, meaning that he's had 4 years of undergrad, probably 4 or more years of graduate school, and then a couple years post-grad. He certainly had to of known what the risks were that came with the job. He chose to study that area. No one tricked him into anything.
 
"This incident clearly shows that LANL has a deep rooted cultural problem. If it did not than why is that we are always in the news? Accidents like this just do not happen at other places, if they did the news would report them."

I hope that's sarcasm?
 
"This incident clearly shows that LANL has a deep rooted cultural problem. If it did not than why is that we are always in the news? Accidents like this just do not happen at other places, if they did the news would report them."

The news does NOT report similar accidents at other DOE labs. The fact is that the Santa Fe New Mexican is not at all objective w.r.t. LANL.
 
Where to start....

Right on, 6/1/2005 10:33:15 AM "..spewing glass against their bodies." Honestly, this belongs in a James Bond-esque novel, not a report on a minor industrial accident. As an aside, this would barely be a blip on the fear-scale in a JB novel. Next thing you know, Diana Heil will be regaling us with tales of mutant beings hatching within the guts of the hapless crew who ventured far into hyperspace because they forgot to write the IWD to cover what to do when the craft approaches the worm hole to the next galaxy.


Listen, 6/1/2005 02:50:39 PM, no one wants any blood-letting in their job, child, spouse, co-worker or otherwise. At least until the "butthead, cowboy name-calling" became a fully-implemented management technique. Seriously though, there are literally reams of paper full of statistics that show that most accidents in high-risk activities are minor injury-type accidents; bumped heads, stubbed toes, paper cuts, trips, falls, etc.

The deep-rooted cultural problem, 6/1/2005 03:23:32 PM, is that the press industry (local and national) that are competing for advertising dollars aren't compelled to instill truth, balance or even some of the tenets of communication; less is more, news is about imparting factual information whereas OP-ED contains opinions and allows for unadulterated and obvious slanting to convince the reader to concur with the viewpoint. The press has become more of an entertainment-oriented industry rather than fulfilling what was once their deep-seated goal of bringing the information to the masses and carrying the bold, if unpopular, truth. Why is it now that even when the truth is revealed to them, to all of us, they shy away from carrying a retraction or setting their own slanted record straight - perhaps it doesn't sell as well as scandal, trauma, and gossip.

6/1/2005 04:33:39 PM, not only does the news/media not report incidents that occur at other facilities, even the other facilities don't report incidents in the same way up to DOE! My understanding is that the tiered or matrix structure of incident assessment and the reporting mandates associated with each category which LANL uses is not necessarily consistently applied at other DOE facilities. Hypothetically, if LANL in interpreting the DOE regulations or guidelines assesses and self-reports a Level 3 incident, sounding the DOE alarm and along with it the bonus of the glare of the spotlight on itself once again, you might find that another facility would've rated the incident as a Level 4 and not been mandated to report it upwards. It seems that LANL may be overly critical or attempting to err on the conservative side (in interpreting the incident reporting guidelines) but perhaps would rather subject itself (read: us) to scrutiny than be found to not apply the regulations strictly enough. Perhaps this is in response to earlier claims or unrelated claims that LANL ignores all things DOE, I don't know.
 
What bothers me is that the LANL spin machine is in full swing. When absolutely nothing happens (no missing CREM) they go apoplectic and shut down the lab.

The accident Friday was very severe. The post-doc lost a great deal of blood and required reconstructive surgery on his hand. The protective shield that he was working with failed and he received lacerations to his abdomen through his clothing. With only a slightly more energetic sample those fragments could have penetrated the abdominal cavity. This was a near miss that could have been a fatality with only slightly different parameters.

The DX division leader should be subject to the same discipline as those who were fired in the laser incident since this was a much more severe accident. In addition there were numerous accidents and near misses at the DARHT facility under his directorship that were overlooked because Nanos wanted a hydrotest fired to use as PR. Kevin Jones is not competent to run a division like DX and should face the same fate that he meted out to others for far less serious transgressions and to those who commited no transgressions at all.
 
Anonymous at 6/1/2005 10:25:09 PM has it entirely correct. In particular, the statement about Nanos wanting the hydrotest to happen. At LANL, line managers at the GL level are accountable for safety all the down the chain of command. But, the only individuals who have any incentive at all to cut corners on safety are in the program side of the structure. I was kicked off a major LANL program by the Program Director because I complained about safety. I propose that both the GL and the PL be flogged whenever there is a safety incident.
 
FROM: 6/1/2005 02:50:39 PM

Thanks to those that responded after me to clarify what injuries had occured to the students. I know that they followed the IWD to the tee. But the fact that plexi-glass exploded and hit one of them in the face and stomache is something not to be taken lightly. My comments were just to see the incident from another perspective. The fact that one of them had to go through re-constructive surgery alone talks about the gravity of the incident.

But again, I think that Public Affairs dropped the ball. The rumor mill was already winding up before they said anything at all. Then they don't tell the whole story either. They made it sound less sever than it was. I also agree that some of the news about LANL is sensational - but we can't seem not to be in the news either. It wasn't only the New Mexican that ran a story - so did other news media (again making it sound like it wasn't that bad).
 
My experience with LANL over the years is that it only reports accidents that it is worried will leak if LANL tries to cover them up. I can imagine that the incident at DX last week must have been obvious and dramatic to a lot of people, including LANL staff and Los Alamos Medical Center employees, so many that there was no hope of silencing.
As for firing everyone in sight, I hope that we have given that up along with Nanos. Yes, flagrant violators should definitely be fired. But in this case, as far as we know, everyone was following procedures. At least at this point, LANL should not be firing people, but trying to figure out why an activity deemed safe, was not and rewriting the procedures to allow for safe handling of this chemical in the future.
If, eventually, flagrant violations are found, then the perpetrator should be fired as well as anyone in management who ignored a known risk.
On the other hand, it would be far better to come up with a valid safety procedure for the protection of future employees than to fire people who may have done nothing wrong. If anything, this is what we should have learned from the Todd Kauppila case.
I feel very sorry for the young man who was severely injured and am grateful for full coverage by the New Mexican and other news sources.
Open public discussion of these issues is a good thing. If this isn't happening at other laboratories it should be.
 
I'd like to say something about the comment:

"But again, I think that Public Affairs dropped the ball. The rumor mill was already winding up before they said anything at all. Then they don't tell the whole story either. They made it sound less sever than it was. I also agree that some of the news about LANL is sensational - but we can't seem not to be in the news either."

I work in Public Affairs.
As long as I've been reading the blog I've seen lots of comments about PA (not PR) "dropping the ball" and engaging in all kinds of "spin-meistering." I'll address that only with regard to the above comment.

What does "dropping the ball" mean beyond shoulda, woulda, coulda? The only thing we can do when we take a call from the media is relay the facts.
The majority of us have journalism backgrounds, and we are conditioned from the beginning of our education not to engage in speculation. We aren't the ones who say we downplay anything. Someone else does that.

The media will believe what they want to believe about LANL and form their own conclusions, no matter what we tell them. It's a herd mentality, and for us it's based on all the bad press we've accumulated since Wen Ho Lee. If you think they'll remember good things and the good science when there may be more manure to pile on the heap, then you don't know media.

Do they do it intentionally? A few do; others do and honestly don't know they are doing it, and a precious few are indeed professional and balanced enought to know what they are doing. But, they ALL want the story, and it's from that point unfortunate delineations begin. Most all have short memories while others, depending on their personal preferences (or agendas) have longer ones. Take a bunch of facts, throw them in a shaker along with hazy impressions, preconceptions, a pinchof a response from the subject and shake it all up. You tell me what you get. I l'll tell you it's different every time. You can only do your best to get your side of the story out.

It's a problem PA addresses every day. There aren't simple solutions and proceedures to "fix" the situation, It takes time, and a lot of "one step forward, two step back."

"They don't tell the whole story."
Consider this: What DIDN'T they use that we DID give them.

The people I work with are very experienced, very good at their job and have the best interest of the Laboratory's employees in mind when it comes to doing their job. I wish I had spent most of the years in newsrooms with the same caliber of people I work with. It's real easy to say "PA should do this." That's easy from the outside when you don't have the facts and other considerations of an issue, and don't have to make the decision.

There have been some pretty snarky comments about some of the PA people in the blog. Do you know them...personally? When you have a camera or a microphone in your face...well...ask somebody who had to do it on an easy topic, like their science. Think it's easy?

The Lab is a target because of what it is. Think Manhattan, it started there. It's a source of pride for us, massive hate from the activists, and something more ulterior to others. Some of our detractors are in bed together with each other with one objective in mind - GET LANL. That, by the way, is NOT a comment about those involved in the competition. No where near them.
You know who I mean. They want "Saved the world from nuclear danger" on their headstone. Symbols are very big to them.

We get the headlines because we are, have been and will continue to be the target because we are the symbol. Does anyone really think that anyone or anything OTHER than the people who do the work here will really solve the problem?

Ya'll give me a call, anytime.
John Bass
Broadcast Media Specialist
Public Affairs Office
 
Thanks for the excellent post John. I personally think PA did their job regarding this recent incident. I'd rather it wasn't released at all, but if it has to be, I'm not sure how it could have been done better.

However, I think there are very real concerns about the integrity of Roark and the PA folks supporting him. I can recall many statements from him that were nothing short of complete lies. For instance, stating in February that the lab is 100% up and running when in reality most of DX was still not able to do work. Or when he was repeatedly asked throughout the stand-down whether the lab was concerned about an increase in retirements. His reply was literally to laugh off the question. He stated that it was all false rumors started by a 'very vocal minority'. I especially remember a day when I came in and read the morning news and Roark stated that Nanos was not at all worried about retirements. Then, about 10am I get an email from my group leader asking all people who are considering leaving, either through retirement or for other jobs, to email him so that Nanos can have an accurate tally.

These are just a few examples of the propaganda that Roark has spewed at the media. With this level of prior deceit, why would anyone in the media believe anything lab PA has to say?
 
John, I also appreciate your comments. However, there is a reason that Jim Fallin is known as "Baghdad Bob", and Kevin Roark is "Comical Ali". They have repeatedly been observed mouthing outright lies. "The blog is the home of a just few highly vocal malcontents..." being just one example.

Now, maybe they were told to express warped versions of the truth by Chris Harrington, but regardless of the reason their credibility is shot. Their integrity is also in question.

Let's also not forget that it was "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin's decision to begin censoring the reader's forum section of the NewsBulliten during last year's shutdown.

PA does not have a good image at LANL these days.
 
Does anyone have any (publicly allowable) details of the chemistry going on here? It's pretty tough to shatter a beaker and plexi shield, and the article suggests that they weren't even using an explosive? If it's common chemistry, there should be a safety broacast, e.g. in C&EN.

Glad the two involved are basically OK.
 
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?