FSU MagLab adding new safety measures following fatal accident

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By: Lanetra Bennett
May 24, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A new report shows more safety features are needed for construction projects at the Florida State University MagLab.

The report was ordered after employee Glenn Nix died in an explosion at the lab. The accident happened last October.

The purpose of the report was to identify safety issues and how to address them. There are about 15 measures in the report that administrators say they are already working on.

Changes will include adding more staff, more staff training, and adding more equipment in terms of gauges, metering and labeling. Administrators say they will also streamline operations to be more suited and refocused on safety.

Many of the measures are specific to construction projects at the FSU Mag Lab, since that's what Glenn Nix was working on at the time of the deadly accident.

Administrators say it was high pressure discharge from a device used to cool down one of the magnets at the lab that killed Nix.

Nix’s former supervisor, Anthony Moore, keeps a black doo rag at his office to remind him of Glenn Nix.

Nix worked for Moore at the City of Tallahassee before changing jobs to the FSU MagLab.

Moore said, "Glenn gave me that. He always wanted to ride my motorcycle. He gave me that to ride and instead of taking it home, as a tribute to him, I left it on my desk. I'll probably keep it forever at work."

In response to the fatal accident, administrators called on scientists from across the country to investigate the situation and assess how to move forward.

Moore said, "I’m glad to know that they are working on the problem so that it won't happen again. That's what it's all about, safety for the employees and protecting the worker's family."

Administrators are actively searching for a safety officer to hire. That person would specifically be in charge of construction projects and safety.

The report concluded that even during construction processes, there needed to be multiple layers of additional safety features.

Dr. Gary Ostrander, the Vice President of Research, said, "When you're in that kind of a frontier where it's unknown, there's always a possibility that mistakes can be made. So, it's really important we come to really appreciate we have to add additional safety steps to make sure that we don't have another accident."

Dr. Ostrander says some of the safety measures have already been put in place. Others could take a few more months.

Administrators say they just want to keep any other tragedies from happening again.

A copy of the report is attached to this article.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
November 6, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A special panel is now investigating the deadly accident at the Florida State University MagLab.

Worker Glenn Nix was killed October 21st – when a steel cap burst off a pressurized pipe and hit him.

FSU officials say a 5 member panel of internal and external stakeholders will now review the incident in detail.

The University is also awaiting a formal police report – expected soon.

The accident happened in the MagLab’s DC Field Facility—where the cooling system for a new magnet was being constructed.

The facility was closed following the accident but is now ready to reopen.


By: Julie Montanaro
October 23, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A section of FSU's Mag Lab remains closed as police continue to investigate a deadly accident.

Mechanical worker Glenn Nix was killed Wednesday when the cap blew off a pressurized pipe.

News of his death is hitting especially hard at the City of Tallahassee's Underground Utilities, where he worked for years before taking a job at the Mag Lab last month.

"It's just hard to take that he's gone," Kent Thibou said as a tear rolled down his face.

Thibou worked with Glenn Nix day by day, side by side, in this truck for years.

The two spent each day sending a robotic camera into city sewer lines to check for trouble.

Thibou tried calling Nix when he first heard about the accident Wednesday, but never got an answer.

"It's just hard to deal with being that...he was the last - well I was the last person he worked with here before he left. We had that relationship where we could talk to each other about anything," Thibou said.

Nix was killed Wednesday just four weeks after taking a job as a Mechanical Trades Technician at FSU's Mag Lab. The university says he was part of a crew working on a pipe that supplied cooling water to magnets. A spokesman says the crew was trying to remove a steel cap when it blew off and struck Nix.

"I just prayed that it's not really true," former co-worker Nathaniel Grimsley said. "I though ... I just prayed that he didn't go through any pain and I thought about his family and his kids and I prayed for them, as well."

"A tragedy like that - somebody that you work with right beside each other and talk to everyday and spend more time with him than you do your own family, you know, it was just really, really, really hard to hear something like that happened to Nick," former co-worker Isaac Townsend said.

Everyone at the City of Tallahassee's Underground Utilities fights back tears as they talk about the man they called "Nick" - who they say loved his wife and children and could fix just about anything.

They called him a "tinkerer" who liked fixing cars and just about everything else he could find for free on Craigslist.

His former boss at Tallahassee Underground Utilities says they will miss his smile and the pride he took in his work.

"When we heard that it actually was Nix everybody was like gosh you know that was Nix less than a month ago we were sitting at the table next door eating lunch we were working laughing talking," former supervisor Anthony Moore said. "It was just hard to accept."

Funeral arrangements for Nix are not yet finalized.


News Release: Florida State University
October 20, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 at about 10 a.m., an accident occurred at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) that resulted in the fatality of a mechanical worker.

Glenn Nix, who worked as a mechanical trades technician at the MagLab, was part of a crew working on a new magnet under construction within the lab’s Direct Current (DC) Field Facility when the accident occurred.

The crew was working on part of the system that would supply cooling water to the magnet during operation. They attempted to remove a steel cap from the end of the water supply pipe and encountered a release of pressurized air and water that propelled the cap forward, striking Nix.

Medical autopsy findings are still pending to determine the exact cause of death.

An emergency call for assistance was made by another team member, and the MagLab’s safety department provided the initial emergency response, followed by the FSU Police, City of Tallahassee Fire and Police Departments and Emergency Medical Technicians.

An investigation is ongoing.

MagLab leadership and FSU officials convened an all-hands staff meeting within 90 minutes of the incident. Grief counselors were on-site immediately following the incident and continue to be available.

The magnets housed within the lab’s DC Field Facility are connected to cooling water pipes. Immediately following the incident, that facility was shut down. The MagLab’s facilities and safety teams performed an initial inspection of the magnet cooling water pumps and determined that the incident was confined to the magnet construction area. The magnet cooling water system was secured, and the DC Field Facility remains shut down.

There was never a threat to users, other staff or the public.

The MagLab is fully cooperating with authorities in the continuing investigation. An official investigative report from the FSU police department is expected to be completed in the near future.


News Release: Florida State University
October 20, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — An employee of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University died this morning in a workplace accident while working on a magnet construction project.

The employee, who worked on the facilities staff at the MagLab, was pronounced dead at the scene. Florida State University Police identified him as Glenn Nix. A second employee was treated at the scene for minor injuries and released.

There was no ongoing safety risk to MagLab employees or the public as a result of the accident. Next of kin has been notified and grief counselors are on the scene speaking with employees. Employees seeking professional counseling are advised to contact the Employee Assistance Program.

FSU Police were notified at 10:13 a.m. Wednesday. Police arrived on the scene immediately and launched an investigation. Leon County EMS, TFD and TPD also responded.

“This is truly a tragic event and my heart goes out to the family of the employee,” said Gary K. Ostrander, Florida State University Vice President for Research. “Such a loss is difficult to absorb for such a close and caring community. We are here to provide support to those who need it."

“Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and MagLab community,” FSU President John Thrasher said. “I hope everyone at FSU will keep Glenn and his family in their prayers during this difficult time.”

The “How Time McFlies” community event scheduled for this evening at the MagLab was immediately cancelled following the accident.
The only magnet lab of its kind in the United States, the MagLab is home to some of the largest and most powerful magnets in the world. The lab was established by the National Science Foundation in 1990.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 21, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State University says that a workplace accident at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory resulted in an employee fatality this morning.

The facility, known as MagLab, is located on East Paul Dirac Drive in west Tallahassee.

FSU police responded to the scene this morning and are now investigating.

Officials say there is no ongoing safety risk to MagLab or the public as a result of the accident.

An FSU Alert stated that next of kin has been notified and grief counselors are at the scene speaking with employees.

The "How Time McFlies" event scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at MagLab has been cancelled.

According to its website, MagLab is the only facility of its kind in the United States and more than a thousand scientists visit the facility to use its unique magnets every year.

The lab is jointly operated for the National Science Foundation by Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

FSU is responsible for establishing and maintaining administrative and financial oversight of the lab.

No further details are available at this time. WCTV will update this story as more details become available.




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