Date: January 7, 2011
Editor: Lori Stiegler
It's not unusual for experiment needs to change, and beam time to be limited while conducting research at the NSLS. Unfortunately, these factors, and several other contributing factors, converged recently and adversely affected an experimenter. The result was a hand injury that required a trip to the hospital, and sutures. In the case of this injury, the user was trying to fashion a new sample holder because of difficulty with the equipment he had brought from his home institution. The idea for the substitute sample holder had been previously discussed with his work group, but never tried. Using the alternate tools and holders he had brought, he tried to cut a slot out of a hard plastic tube with a razor knife. The knife slipped and cut his finger.
If we stop to consider human performance error traps, there were several associated with this injury.
Protecting your hands requires constant attention to the task being done. Experimental work frequently involves sharp edges, hot surfaces, and moving tables or sample robots with pinch points. Being aware of the hazards is important. You may consider gloves for some tasks:
Help is available for tasks such as this at the NSLS, from the beam line local contact, or the Operations Coordinator. If they are not able to help, they can find you help. For this instance, better tools could have been the solution. The NSLS has a user machine shop filled with equipment and staffed full time. There may have been a safer way to construct the sample holder.
Brookhaven National Lab has experienced several hand injuries from similar circumstances. There is more guidance on selecting tools, and personal protective equipment for hands in the BNL Safety Topic 'Hand Safety'