At Berkeley Lab, we operate in a complex environment full of expensive equipment, delicate research, and many potential hazards. Some of the most underrated hazards involve utilities such as water, gas, and electricity. Our current shelter in place environment increases the threat of unattended equipment failure.
For example, recently, a connection failure between a piece of experimental equipment and the building water caused approximately 1,000 gallons of water to flood a building, resulting in extensive damage.
Researchers have a responsibility to protect Lab colleagues, research, equipment, and infrastructure.
First, they should check all equipment and connections.
- Connections from utilities (water and gases) to all equipment not in use should be closed.
- Tubing and connections between equipment and utilities should be checked for wear, age, damage, and replaced if needed.
- Tubing and connections between equipment and utilities should be included in equipment maintenance plans.
Second, they should follow established protocols for equipment service or repair.
- Any non-construction hands-on repair or service of a device, apparatus, machine, mechanism, or building component by an outside vendor or technician requires a Subcontractor Job Hazards Analysis (SJHA).
- Starting this analysis allows prompt assignment of the correct utility experts (such as a Qualified Electrical Worker), helps to keep the Lab’s complex infrastructure intact, and maintains a safe work environment at the Lab.
Scientific equipment can fail in ways that not only cause extensive damage to infrastructure but interrupt our ability and those of our colleagues to meet our research goals.