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Los Alamos worker suffers severe burns in lab fire

New evidence has emerged in the investigation into the explosion that occurred at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Santa Fe on April 19.

Investigators have determined that both laboratory officials and state inspectors might have been aware of the presence of unlabeled hazardous waste on the premises for at least two days prior to the explosion that occurred. The accident caused one of the facility's employees to suffer severe second-degree burns all about his body.

In combing through evidence at the scene of the explosion, investigators were able to locate an inspection report from April 17 that suggests that the small container of hazardous waste was first discovered then. The inspectors noted that the container was found unattended and unsealed at that time. They noted that, in questioning workers about the substance, the employees said they were not trained on how to properly handle them.

This violation of waste protocol is one of many safety issues the lab has been cited for in the past few months. Just a few months ago, the lab put aircrews' lives in jeopardy by sending hazardous waste via aircraft to out-of-state laboratories instead of sending them via ground methods.

In this most recent case, though, the lab employee had been emptying the trash when the fire broke out. They had originally assumed the substance in the trash can was graphite, a less toxic substance than the lanthanum nickel hydride it ultimately turned out to be. When they went to move it, it caught on fire.

Although emergency crews were called immediately to address the employee's burn injuries, investigators noted that the government facility's administration delayed more than 36 days in reporting the incident to the proper governing bodies. They note that this is well over the 15 days they're allotted to report such breaches in safety.

When it comes to safety, there's a reasonable expectation that employers are going to maintain a workplace that minimizes an employee's risk of injury. If you feel that your workplace injury was caused by your employer's negligence, then a Los Lunas workers compensation attorney may be able to help you recover the cost of medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, "Lab might have known dangerous waste was unmarked," Rebecca Moss, Aug. 04, 2017

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