OSHA Issues Nine Serious Citations Following Laser Lab Accident

OSHA has cited the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics for nine alleged serious safety violations and proposed $56,700 in fines against the laboratory as a result of an Aug. 6, 2008, accident that seriously injured an employee.

The employee was servicing a pressurized diagnostic device for the OMEGA laser known as the Light Pipe when it exploded. OSHA's inspection found deficiencies regarding the design, installation, and operator training for the Light Pipe and the compressed gas system of which it was a part. OSHA has cited the lab for failing to safeguard employees against recognized explosion hazards associated with assembly, disassembly, pressurizing, evacuating, and monitoring activities for the Light Pipe.

"While this machinery is singular, the underlying safety concerns are basic and vital," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "Effective steps must be taken and maintained to eliminate any conditions that could contribute to a recurrence of this unfortunate and grave accident. One element of this could be an effective safety and health management system through which employees and management work together to evaluate, identify, and eliminate workplace hazards."

Specifically, the laboratory has been cited for failing to keep the Light Pipe gas tight or provide it with a pressure relief device to prevent an instantaneous uncontrolled gas leak; failing to have the compressed gas system designed by a competent person; an improper gas pressure regulating device; housing the compressed gas cylinder in a place where it was exposed to damage; improper installation of the platform plate from which the Light Pipe was attached; having unqualified persons work on the compressed gas system; lack of eye, face, and hand protection; and not evaluating the work area for hazards.

The laboratory has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and fines to meet with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office; telephone 716-551-3053.

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