Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do it safely!

Doing the job safely is, for those of us who conduct research within the national laboratory system, a high priority. This is emphasized for work conducted in the laboratory and in the field. And being 4,100 miles from our home institutions, maybe farther, doesn't lessen that expectation or that responsibility. However, being so far removed from the operational support of staff who are trained in ES&H does make it all the more important to be vigilant in our safety protocols and in our assessment of how those procedures and requirements are implemented in the field and laboratory environments here in Barrow.

In thinking about safety plans for the NGEE Arctic project, we have recently added what we are calling the "Officer of the Day" concept. This requires that one person assumes the responsibility each morning to get the team together, review any issues encountered during the previous day, and then highlight the upcoming activities that might bring with them new safety considerations. Most people do this informally during some part of their day. We have simply chosen to formalize that in order to heighten the safety message in what can be a hectic and harsh working environment.

Today, I took a turn at being the Officer of the Day and reviewed with our small team any safety issues that were revealed as we worked yesterday and need to be revisited or analyzed today. The small size of our team, just four of us, made it easy to talk through issues and identify potential hazards and safety concerns.

The main topic of discussion was that Jonathan was new to Barrow and would be working for the first time at our field research site. He needed to check in with UMIAQ and get a BEO permit. He also needed a briefing on proper use of our communication radios, appropriate clothing for the prevailing weather conditions, location of the local hospital, etc. We are developing a field and laboratory safety manual that contains much of this information, some of which Jonathan was already aware based on discussions prior to his trip. Site-specific training was given by Victoria who will be working closely with Jonathan in the coming weeks.

The safety briefing and site-specific training were completed in a short period of time and people departed for the field. We will do the same thing tomorrow morning as we continually reinforce safety expectations and requirements in the NGEE Arctic project.