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NSLS ESH Highlight #33

Caution is Needed in All Areas of the NSLS

Date: July 23, 2003
Editor: R. Casey

Even a simple task such as waxing a floor can involve serious injury to a bystander. Recently, an NSLS staff member fell and fractured his elbow when he stepped onto a hallway floor that was being stripped in preparation for waxing. The subsequent hospitalization, surgery and at-home stay took 10 days before he was allowed to come back to work. Thankfully, he is better, but he has suffered serious injury.

An analysis of the incident determined the root cause was lack of an adequate barrier to prevent a person from walking into the hazardous area. While a Caution sign was in place, a physical barrier blocking access was not. The actual degree of slipperiness during a stripping operation is similar to walking on ice. The risk of slipping is much higher in this situation than the risk associated with wet mopping/standing water on a floor.

The NSLS is working in collaboration with Plant Engineering to assure that this type of injury does not re-occur. The key step will be to make sure that the work area is clear of occupants and that obvious barriers are in place to prevent entry. Everyone realizes that closure of a part of a building is a major inconvenience, therefore this work will be carefully planned and coordinated with the Building Managers, Custodial Services, and the impacted building occupants.

For small office or beamline type jobs:

  1. A custodian will schedule the work and, when possible, verbally inform the residents ahead of time of an upcoming floor-waxing job.


  2. The office/beamline will be posted at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of work in order to notify the residents the room/beamline number, the date and times of the upcoming job.


  3. A physical barrier (a bar or yellow/black caution tape) with an attached sign will be placed across the doorway alerting personnel that the area is closed. This is what the bar and sign looks like:

For larger jobs such as a hallway, an email announcement will be sent out, and appropriate signs and barriers will be placed as needed.

The custodians will remove all signs and barricades as soon as practical after the job is completed.

Your Responsibilities - Look and Listen and Follow Postings!
It will be important for building occupants to respect the procedures and barriers that are used in this plan. A few obvious comments:

  • When a barrier has been imposed and the area is closed, you are not allowed to enter until the barriers are taken down. The barrier will clearly state that the area is closed. If there is a compelling need to enter the area, you may only do so if you have the specific permission of the custodian working the area.


  • Closure of an area will be limited to: stripping and waxing operations and bathroom cleanups while the custodian is present. Other activities will use the standard “Wet Surface - Caution” signs. Areas where the “Caution” signs are used are not closed, but obviously any personnel walking near these signs should step carefully. Custodians will provide guidance if you just ask.

We have detailed programs at the NSLS to protect people from the serious hazards present in our work place - radiation exposure, lasers, electrical hazards, cryogenics, and others. Those programs work well, but as in this case, serious injuries often occur from routine hazards that we experience here as well as at home and elsewhere. All of us should minimize our risk of injury by following common sense precautions:

  • Watch where you step.
  • Don’t read while you are walking; concentrate on your pathway and be constantly alert.
  • Hold on to a handrail as you go up or down the stairs.
  • Be careful about lifting heavy objects or working on ladders.
  • When unsure of your surroundings, obtain guidance.

Life has no guarantees, but there is much that each of us can do to reduce the risk of injury to co-workers, family, and ourselves.