November 19, 2004  


Laboratory Moves into Normal Work Mode

As of Monday November 15, the Laboratory has moved from a ‘restricted work’ status into a ‘normal work’ mode.

By Jonathan Dorfan

Following the serious electrical accident on October 11, 2004, I created restrictions in the workplace. These restrictions have now been lifted and this past Monday the Laboratory staff resumed ‘normal work’ activities.

In resuming normal work, there are revised processes and procedures that govern the way we carry out electrical work and hoisting/rigging. These processes and procedures are designed to ensure that SLAC will continue to have a safer workplace and strong ownership by the full ‘line’ for safety in the workplace.

Safety Comes First!

Extremely important to our success is the renewed commitment of supervisors and their staff to consistently review, plan and document their work using the Job Hazard Analysis and Mitigation (JHAM) and the Area Hazard Analysis (AHA) processes. This will ensure that hazards continue to be identified ahead of the work, that the appropriate level of training is verified in advance, and that the applicable protective equipment and procedures are consistently incorporated into the work-execution phase. This process underlies the overall ‘line management’ approach to safety inherent to SLAC.

Work on electrical circuits is pervasive in any high-tech workplace like ours. Such work can present especially hazardous situations, which require a case-by-case safety review. The higher the level of hazard, the more stringent will be our level of preparation, scrutiny and sign-off. Under no circumstance should expediency or convenience be accepted as a justification to bypass this scrutiny.

Of course this principle of ‘safety comes first!’ extends to all areas of the workplace. The ‘Values and Expectations’ document found at describes how we balance our priorities to ensure that safety comes first even as we achieve outstanding science.

A crucial element for safe work at SLAC is each individual’s empowerment to stop unsafe work activities. Everybody at SLAC has that right, without concern that they would be retaliated against for doing so. The ‘Stop Unsafe Activity’ authority is outlined in the ES&H manual, chapter 2, section 3. If at any time you feel your safety is being put at risk, it is your responsibility to talk to your supervisor immediately. If it is your judgment, as an individual, that you see some work being done that you truly believe is unsafe, you are authorized to stop the activity immediately.

Key Actions

The past few weeks have been challenging for all of us. We had a so-called ‘near miss’ in hoisting and rigging. We had a very serious electrical accident followed by a DOE Type A Accident Investigation. The Type A Investigation Team concluded its investigation two weeks ago and their draft report is at DOE headquarters for review. I anticipate that we will receive the report and ‘Judgments of Need’ soon. It will take us, together with the DOE Site Office, about two weeks after that to generate a corrective action plan. Elements of the corrective action plan will influence our approach to restoring the machines to operations.

All of us have attended numerous meetings and have read many documents as part of re-invigorating our commitment to safety in the workplace. A very large attendance of classes in safety-specific training has also taken place. I want to thank all of you for your cooperation in all these processes.

I have created the position of Electrical Safety Officer (ESO) and Perry Anthony has kindly agreed to take up that position. The role of the ESO is patterned on the successful model used in the areas of radiation safety, pressure and vacuum vessel safety, and laser safety. Please work supportively with Perry, as you do with Sayed Rokni (Radiation Safety Officer), Richard F. Boyce (Pressure and Vacuum Vessel Safety Officer) and Ted Fieguth (Laser Safety Officer).

We are grateful to the Director’s of Fermilab and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for providing, on very short notice, four each of their experts covering the areas of electrical safety and hoisting/rigging. These colleagues spent a week at SLAC and left us with many very helpful comments, observations and recommendations. These were part and parcel of the guidance under which we returned to normal work. A small group internal to SLAC will conclude this week a study of our policies and procedures for managing the safety requirements of outside contractors and sub-contractors.

Next Steps

Moving forward involves three phases of activities:

Between now and the early part of 2005, our goal is to re-establish user operations at SPEAR3 and BABAR, contingent on the Type A corrective actions which are forthcoming. We will also use this time to continue to remedy deficiencies noted by the OSHA and other audits.

The medium term phase will end around May 1, 2005 and the long term phase about a year later. During these two periods, we will increasingly refine and consolidate our high level safety procedures and documents, complete training for that part of our staff that needs it, continue correction of items noted by the OSHA and other audits and implement any medium-term and long-term Type A corrective actions. In the long-term, we will close out any remaining compliance tasks which we committed we would complete prior to the recent accident.

Turning on the Machines

The near-term challenge in resuming the work associated with turning on our machines is: 1) the effort required to achieve full conformance to the new guidance for work performed on electrical and hoisting/rigging, and 2) the need to gain ground on the OSHA-type corrections. There will also be corrective actions coming from the Type A ‘Judgments of Need’. Satisfying these combined requirements means that re-establishing the running machines will take significantly longer than usual. But once we have completed this cycle of rigor, we will have these new guidelines fully incorporated in our system, ready for future machine re-starts.

The main responsibility for the safe return to work is, as it should be, borne by the Associate Directors, their divisions and their staffs. Within this "line" organization framework, each of us must renew ownership of responsibility for a safe workplace.

Thank You All

In moving forward, let me again acknowledge that SLAC’s greatest asset is the competence, skill and dedication of the SLAC staff, namely you. I am very proud of the fact that the SLAC Family knows how to work in support of each other, and knows how to team effectively to achieve our goals. As we engage the challenges of returning to full operations, our mutual spirit of cooperation and support will be more necessary than ever. I know that you will all use this time to strengthen, even more, the bonds and respect we all share, so that the demands of the next few months leave us even more united, with no loss of the wonderful spirit and deep commitment that has served us so well in the past, while at the same time reaffirming our commitment to the goal of a safer workplace for us all.

As always, I thank each and every one of you and greatly appreciate your support as we move forward.



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Tuesday November 16, 2004 by Emily Ball