Prevention is better than cure

Throughout the year, members of the Safety Inspections Services section of HSE Unit devote themselves to ensuring the safety of all infrastructure and equipment that represent a specific hazard within the Organization. They regularly comb through all CERN's infrastructure to forestall any accidents and their potential impact, true to the adage that prevention is better than cure.


This site has a few (!) slight safety problems... Spot the mistakes! (Details of the game below.)

Ensuring that an HV electrical installation is properly earthed, that a system under pressure has no weak points, that an item of lifting equipment can be used without risk, that safety valves operate at the right pressure threshold as well as checking that a heavy object that could inflict injury if it fell is not stored on top of a cupboard: such are the types of inspections performed by the Safety Inspection Service (DGS-SEE-SIS). "These checks reassure those in charge of equipment and infrastructure that everything is in order or, when necessary, allow us to notify them of the need to undertake preventive action to pre-empt any malfunction or incident,” underlines Enrico Cennini, Head of DGS-SEE Group.

This photo, featured in an Easyjet magazine article about art and physics, shows another situation where safety could have been much improved.

The Safety Inspections Services section consists of a team of about 8 people and 2 contractors who are responsible for checking some 1200 CERN infrastructures - administrative buildings, experimental halls, workshops, tunnels, technical galleries, etc. - and associated equipment such as electrical installations, lifting gear, pressurised tanks or machine tools, and for ensuring their compliance with the relevant standard. “Our service is divided into five safety-inspection subsections: general, electrical, lifting, pressurised equipment and machine tools,” explains Cécile Pinto, head of the SIS Section. ”Our role is to assist the departments to operate responsibly in safety matters with the aim of reducing the number of accidents by eliminating or containing hazards. It is therefore also up to them to take the necessary measures, especially prior to a safety inspection!”

The general inspection consists of a comprehensive analysis of all risks, ranging from the risk of falling objects to the risk arising from incompatibility between chemicals. As Cécile Pinto emphasises, nothing is left to chance: “We check everything, from the basement to the roof. When we do our inspections we always take the plans of the buildings along with us to ensure that no nooks and crannies are overlooked.”

After the inspection, the TSOs and DSOs (who are always informed of the visit even if they don't directly participate in it) get an inspection report. The report highlights any safety-related issues and how to address them. “If we have any particular comments to make, we always address them directly to the person concerned,” explains Cécile Pinto. “It is then up to that person to take the necessary action. We try to remedy the maximum possible number of safety problems by calling on the expertise of members of the HSE Unit.”

The figures

In 2011, the SIS Section team inspected 679 infrastructures, 1113 electrical installations, 2269 items of lifting equipment, 3000 slings, 580 pressurised tanks, 3300 valves and 300 machine tools.

CERN's numerous electrical installations are inspected annually. General inspections take place every one to three years, depending on the level of risk that the building represents. Lifting gear - overhead travelling cranes, slings and lifting beams – as well as lifts and automatic doors are inspected once a year (forklift trucks and boom lifts every six months). Pressurised tanks (those in excess of 0.5 bar) are inspected every 40 months and safety valves every one to 10 years.

To take part in the "Spot the mistakes" game designed by the Safety Inspection Service you must be member of the CERN personnel (any category). Please, send a list of the seven safety problems in the photo to Two winners will be chosen at random from the correct answers. The first will get the opportunity to participate in the Lift12 conference. The second will receive a copy of the book LHC: the Large Hadron Collider.

Please send your answers in by Wednesday 25 January 2012.

by Anaïs Schaeffer