Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Two Los Alamos Lab Workers Inhale Chemical Fumes

Associated Press

LOS ALAMOS — A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker has been placed on leave pending an investigation into an incident in which two other employees inhaled chemical fumes, resulting in the hospitalization of one of them.

The two workers were mixing concentrated nitric and hydrochloric acids to form a highly corrosive liquid that is used in etching and other procedures. The two were conducting lab work with the mixture when they inhaled fumes.

Lab management didn't learn of the incident, which apparently happened in June, until Aug. 3. The incident is under investigation and one employee is on leave pending the outcome, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the lab.


Full Story

When trust is lost between management and worker, incidents go underground. The fact that this serious incident stayed "hidden" from management for over a month is one of the greatest indictments of the current LANL management to date. How can an employee be in the hospital for six days without the manager knowing? Didn't s/he review the time sheets before signing them? Where was the TL? Just what kind of an organization have we become? Is this what we really want? Who cared?
If this is the real LANL, a place where we don't look out for each other, why do we work here anymore?
For the paycheck.
poster 10:17. I think you better see what the full facts are on the case before you pass judgement. Easy to state that no one was checking the time card -- do you know what the PD entered, and why?

Why is it that Blogsers think they can provide judgement based on a few facts? The incident was recorded, an investigation started. This investigation will determine the facts, and then the Blog will have another turn at passing judgement
What the article neglects to say is the the worker who ended up in the hospital was not experiencing symptoms from the time the incident occurred until the hospitalization. After the exposure the worker felt ill for a period of time, but that feeling subsided. It was not until weeks later when further symptoms surfaced that the worker was hospitalized. The management was aware that the worker was in the hospital, but because this incident was never reported there was no reason for management to suspect as much. It was later that the incident was finally reported by the worker and management became immediately involved.
The circumstances of the incident are under investigation - don't jump the gun on drawing a conclusion. Only very few details have been released thus far.
What did our LANL management know about this incident, and when did they know it? It looks like a cover-up was in progress, but I hope I'm wrong.
8/09/2005 10:43:48 PM said:
"What the article neglects to say is the the worker who ended up in the hospital was not experiencing symptoms from the time the incident occurred until the hospitalization."

Is that normal for inhalation of acid fumes? It will be interesting to see what the final report says.
No the article doesn't state all the facts due to the investigation. The supervisor ignored the postdocs concerns re: the chemicals and forced the postdoc to mix them anyways. The supervisor was aware of the hospitalization and when the postdoc came back to work - refused to let the postdoc go HSR-2 (which is mandatory). The postdoc went to the division and they sent postdoc immediately. So much for learning our lessons. So who are you going to blame now? Pete can no longer be the punching bag. Still think there is no cultural problem?
07:00 - Where do you get your information? The supervisor provided hood space in other labs that the postdocs could have used but chose not to. The supervisor also asked the postdocs repeatedly whether they needed to visit HSR-2 immediately after the exposure. They declined. The "injured" postdoc was healthy enough to report to work as usual for several weeks after the exposure, get married, and travel to an East Coast conference... before finally succumbing to the deleterious effects of the exposure. The postdoc had not yet returned to work after hospitalization, as of yesterday.
8/10/2005 07:00:41 AM:

Damn right! Shut this place down again! We still have a few customers that we didn't scare off with the last shutdown. A lot of good staff have left, but screw 'em! Kick ass. Take names. That's the ticket.
Just to clarify,
1) the PD initially did not think the hospitalization was due to the fumes
2) the PD was a little ill, but continuned to work (except for a few sick days), during the interim period, the PD did not associate the illness with the exposure.
3) research while the PD was in the hospital turned up the fact that delayed reactions (4-6 weeks) to these fumes is very common and travel to the humid East coast probably set it off.
4) the PD reported directly to HSR-2 and informed the GL before returning to work -- the PD is still very sick and not at work.
5) The 07:27 poster is lying or has the facts of the incident completely wrong. These details will come out during the investigation, I will not comment here. This blog is not the forum to discuss details that led up to or immediately following the incident.
8/10/2005 07:00:41 AM, you forgot the part about demanding an oath of fealty before "allowing" staff to return to work:

"My mind's right, boss; I got my mind right. Don't make me dig the hole anymore.". --Cool Hand Luke
7:27 where did you get your information? Much of it is inaccurate. Also, it is wrong to imply that the PD was not ill. The PD was hospitalized for 6 days and is still very sick. That alone alludes to a culture problem: a complete disregard for other co-workers well-being and health.
Regardless of the facts..read AM313. Leave of UNDER five calendar days requires group management approval, OVER five calendar days the employee must report to ESH 2.

Another management failure...
I am going to need a full bottle of tequila to get through this next stand-down...
It is still true.
There has been one recent poster of anonymous comments on this thread who has been particularly malicious and cowardly, attacking Todd Kaupilla, who, now that he is dead, cannot defend himself.

I requested that Doug delete the comments, but for the record,

1. Todd died of a massive pancreatic hemorrhage.
2. Stress may have been a factor.
3. Alcohol was not a factor.
4. Attempts at character assassination of this type are particularly venal.

I will be attempting to find out who you are, so that I can expose you for the person you are. You stepped over the bounds; we will now find out who you are, and then we will let every person who reads this blog know who you are. We will, via the blog, announce who you work for, and how you used government equipment to perform a base, cowardly attempt at inflicting further pain on the family of Todd Kaupilla. We will make sure that your supervisor is aware of your cowardly behavior. If you are married, we will make sure that your spouse knows what you did. We will teach you the price of irresponsible behavior. We will be requesting that LANL review the logs of IP traffic. We will ask them to search for the string "Hey I would not do that. Look what drinking did to Tod K.", and when they have found the LANL host that the message orinated from, we will request that disciplinary actions be taken against you.

You can run, but you cannot hide.
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