Fire. Chemical release. Environmental discharge. Injury. Property damage. The list of possible incidents that could occur when performing work for the Lab is long, but the list of where to call if something happens is short. You need to know only two numbers: 911 for a life-threatening situation such as a fire, act of violence, or serious injury, and 1-510-486-6999, the Lab’s Site Operations Center, for any non-emergency situation.
Deputy Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer Michael Brandt brought together subject matter experts from EH&S, Security, and Institutional Assurance to review how notifications occurred when something out of the ordinary happened at any location where Lab work takes place. The review included how reports about incidents at all locations, including UC Berkeley and other academic institutions, are made.
Recently, two team members, Brandon DeFrancisci, department head for health and safety in the EH&S division, and Blair Edwards, department head, site security, in the Security & Emergency Services division, answered some questions about what the team learned, and when and where to call if something happens.
What is it that you want people to understand about the work you’ve been doing?
Blair Edwards: It’s a simple message. We have a new tool that works behind the scenes to notify the right people at the right time if there is an incident at the Lab. What we want everyone to walk away with is to remember two numbers. Call 911 if it is a life-threatening emergency such as a fire, serious injury, or an act of violence. Call the Site Operations Center (SOC) at 1-510-486-6999 at any time in a non-emergency. If, for some reason, you cannot speak, you can also text 911 in most locations.
Did something happen that made the Lab stop and say, hey, we need to know about things happening at the Lab?
Brandon DeFrancisci: No, there wasn’t one incident. Last year, we noticed a lack of understanding in reporting incidents or injuries to Health Services. That led senior leaders to ask a team to come together to look at the issue of reporting incidents at the Lab. The team discovered that reporting things at the Lab is relatively complicated. There’s no clear direction available through the various websites on how to report, where to report, and when to report. We were tasked with simplifying that process through a notification system to ensure all areas of the Lab that need to know if something happens are notified.
There was also concern about the culture around reporting. EH&S has been working on the reporting process for minor injuries with the goal of reducing the amount of paperwork that may be a barrier for employees who may be reluctant to come to Health Services. This is one of the areas we will continue to evaluate as we roll out the new system.
Can you walk us through an example of how the notification system works once someone calls 1-510-486-6999?
Blair: The Site Operations Center will ask you about what type of event it is, your name, location, whether you saw the incident, and whether you are okay. They ask these questions to understand the situation so they can provide support and recommendations about the next step. Again, depending on the case, they may advise you to leave the area. If it’s a simple report, they may ask you questions and then thank you for letting them know.
Brandon: Let’s say there is a chemical spill in a fume hood, and help is needed to clean it up. The researcher calls 1-510-486-6999. The SOC operator will record your name and badge number, the location, and the type of incident. Based on that information, a list of groups will be notified using this new system from EH&S and Facilities to line management. It depends on the kind of event. There are different notification protocols for each type of event.
We are doing this because we don’t want people in individual divisions who participate in the response to run around and ask, have all the right people been notified?
In this example, once someone calls 1-510-486-6999, do they need to take additional action?
Brandon: You will not need to take another step. Depending on the situation, a subject matter expert will contact you to determine what assistance you may need.
What are the types of things that need to be reported?
Brandon: It runs the gamut from wasp stings to fires to chemical spills and uncontained releases. We want to hear about dozens of items; the new system will make that easier.
Why do you care if someone gets stung by a wasp?
Brandon: A hive needs to be addressed to prevent further injuries to other people, and even though a wasp sting seems small, some people can have a severe reaction.
So, using the wasp sting as an example, do I call Health Services? Or do I contact the SOC number if I get stung by a flying insect?
Blair: Anyone can call either number if they are injured. If it is the only number you can remember, call the SOC at 1-510-486-6999. The SOC will ask you questions like, are you allergic to wasps? If so, they will send the fire department paramedics, who are always at the Lab’s hill site. The SOC team will transfer you to Health Services if you aren’t.
If you’re around the globe in Singapore and have an accident where you slip and get injured, you can still call 1-510-486-6999 and get patched through to Health Services immediately. It doesn’t matter where you are located. If you are doing work for the Lab and something happens, we want to know.
During business hours, the SOC will route you to Health Services, where the information about your injury will be taken by Health Services, not by the SOC. If it is out of business hours, an outgoing voicemail message will provide instructions on what to do and where to go if you have an urgent injury.
Is this incident notification system only for incidents related to health?
Brandon: We want to hear about chemical spills that generally would have been called directly into EH&S. We want to hear about uncontained releases to storm sewers or sanitary sewers. Things like damage to government property even if nobody’s hurt.
Blair: The SOC can handle any type of call. Call us if you have a health, building, or wildlife issue. If it is something such as a spill, the SOC will ask if you need help cleaning it up. We want to make sure you get the support you need. We will notify the correct people to get immediate help.
Depending on the situation, we might send someone from Security and contact Facilities to send help, such as the Plant Maintenance Technicians (PMTs). If anything is hazardous, we will also notify EH&S to help. If you have any doubts, call the SOC; we are here to help.
There will be cases where there is an injury, a spill, or a spill with a possible inhalation. If it’s not a life-threatening emergency, calling 1-510-486-6999 starts the notification process for Health Services and those who can help with the spill.
The security officer at the SOC will ask If you believe you inhaled it and if you need medical attention. Those answers will help us determine the best course to follow, whether calling paramedics or Health Services.
Let’s say I’m walking at the Lab’s hillsite, and I avoid the wasp sting. But I noticed one of the handrails on an outdoor staircase is loose. Do I report that to the SOC?
Brandon: That is a safety concern, so call the SOC. And if it is something like that that needs to be addressed by Facilities, the SOC will notify Facilities. Facilities will send someone out to evaluate the hazard, potentially tape off the staircase, and get a work order to fix it.
Blair: There are different levels of safety issues, and in some cases, we will make a direct referral, and in other situations, we will give you the information so you can get the issue addressed.
What kind of training do the people in the SOC have to take on this additional responsibility?
Blair: Officers who work in the Site Operations Center at the Lab have hours of training. They need to work in other security roles at the Lab for 12 months before moving into the SOC. We have designed flow charts for the most likely situations and an extensive callout list of people who can help in different situations.
The Site Operations Center is staffed every day around the clock.
Can I make an anonymous report?
Blair: Yes, when you call the SOC, you can say you want to make an anonymous report. We won’t use caller ID information but must ask a few questions to start the notification process. If you ask for anonymity, your information will not be shared. We will protect your privacy.
When should people call 911?
Blair: Calls that should initially be directed to 911 include when an emergency medical response is needed, a toxic material release, a fire, or a vehicle accident with injury. In these situations, if you call the SOC, we can’t transfer you to the 911 system, so we will ask you to hang up and dial 911 directly. The 911 dispatcher will ask you questions to send the correct assistance.
How is my information handled if a report about my injury goes to Health Services? Is it protected?
Brandon: Yes, it is protected. Only those approved by local policies and procedures will know about the injury.
Will there be changes to the new reporting system?
Brandon: We need to try it out in its initial form and gather feedback. We want to know what’s working and what needs to be improved.
We want to give this a full trial before deciding what else we need. We’re fully aware that something will happen that has never happened before that was not thought of during this process. And we want the system to be flexible.
We look forward to getting feedback and exploring enhancements over the next three to six months.
To sum it up, what do you want employees to do?
Brandon: If you see something, call. In an emergency, use 911. In a non-emergency, call 1-510-486-6999. If you are calling from a Lab landline phone, you can call 6999.
Blair: We want everyone to be safe at the Lab. If you have a concern, talk to us at the SOC.
Call if you see something that could impact the health, safety, and welfare of the Lab personnel, its property, or the environment. We would rather be over-notified than under-notified. Over time, we will be able to establish a culture of what is reportable and what does not need reporting. But, if you see something, call.
Brandon: We all are responsible for our health and safety and the health and safety of those we work with. You cannot assume that somebody else is going to make the call. You may be the only one who sees something happen.
You may be the only one stung by that wasp initially, but someone else may walk through the same area a week later and have a severe allergic reaction to a sting. We want to hear from you to prevent these types of incidents.