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  • Lab to Reopen After Injury
Aug 2008
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Aug. 27, 2008 -- Three weeks after one of its senior engineers was seriously injured, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester is scheduled to reopen.

The return to operations this week comes after a "rigorous" safety review of the most serious injury to an employee in the 38-year history of the laboratory, the university said.

Laboratory Director Robert McCrory closed the lab Aug. 7 after worker Sam Roberts was hurt when a mounting bracket for a piece of diagnostic equipment broke loose while he was standing about six feet below it. The bracket reportedly weighed in excess of 100 lb. The university said Roberts was performing a routine operation in the vicinity of the Omega laser when his coworkers heard a loud noise and found him under the heavy piece of equipment (See also Engineer Hurt in Laser Lab  and Serious Injury Closes Lab).

WROC-TV in Rochester is reporting that Roberts is still paralyzed from the elbows down, his jaw is wired shut, and he will travel to New Jersey to begin rehab soon.

The lab's approximately 300 employees spent more than 35,000 staff hours inspecting equipment and reviewing safety procedures during the three-week closure, the university said.

"We have carefully reviewed the safety of our equipment and procedures throughout the laboratory," McCrory said. "We have every confidence moving forward that we have eliminated to the degree possible the risk of a similar accident occurring again."

McCrory said that the recommendation to U of R President Joel Seligman to resume operations was made after the equipment in question was removed from service and it was determined through the safety reviews that no other equipment in use at the laboratory poses a risk of a failure of this type.

The university said the recommendation was supported by Jeffrey Williams, a former acting associate director for engineering at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and an expert in laboratory accident analysis who independently reviewed the safety stand-down procedures and analysis.

The university's Office of Environmental Health & Safety also separately audited the review and inspections and supports the return to operations, the U of R said.

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