Keeping research infrastructures safe

8 November 2022

Safety is a priority for CERN. It spans all areas of occupational health and safety, including the protection of the environment and the safe operation of facilities. Continuous exchanges with similar research infrastructures on best practices and techniques ensures that CERN maintains the highest standards. From 25 to 28 October, more than 100 people from CERN and research institutes worldwide gathered in the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN for the International Technical Safety Forum (ITSF). This key conference in matters of health and safety is a forum for exchanging new ideas, processes, procedures and technologies in personnel, environmental and equipment safety among a variety of high-energy physics, synchrotron and other research infrastructures.

It is a pleasure to share new ways of thinking and acting in matters of occupational health & safety and environmental protection

Yves Loertscher

“In its 25-year existence, the Forum has evolved with the times, all the while increasing its attractiveness for experts to share their knowledge, experience and challenges,” says Ralf Trant of the CERN technology department. “The scope has broadened from high-energy physics to a wider range of disciplines and participating institutes, in Europe and beyond with Asian labs joining in addition to American institutes, who have been involved since the beginning.”

Opening the event, Benoît Delille, head of the CERN Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) unit, noted: “For colleagues from different institutes who visit CERN for the first time, it is an occasion for us to share the values on which this Organization is built, that we are proud of, and also how we make them come to life through the prism of Safety.” A first session on environmental protection and sustainability saw CERN share its approach to minimise its environmental footprint in key domains, alongside a presentation from the European Spallation Source (ESS) on environmental management during its post-construction phase. Sessions including continuous improvements in health & safety, fire safety, equipment certification, incidents and lessons learned, risk assessment and technical risks unfolded during the week, ending with new projects and challenges, safety culture and behaviour and safety training.

“Listening to your colleagues from other research institutes informing about occurred events, lessons learned and recent developments in safety assessment is the pure essence of ITSF,” said Peter Jakobsson, head of environment, safety, health & quality at ESS and member of the ITSF organising committee, who chaired the “Incidents and lessons learned” session. “We openly share information in different subject safety areas such as fire hazards, handling of chemicals and inspection of pressurised equipment. In doing so, we all learn from each other to create a safe work environment for our staff and scientific users: a true sign of the safety culture that we all strive for.”

In addition to a rich programme of presentations, the event featured an interactive fire workshop in which participants shared ongoing projects and challenges related to fire safety in accelerator facilities. CERN also shared its experiences of the fire-induced radiological integrated assessment (FIRIA) project whose objective is to develop a general methodology for assessing the fire-related risks present in CERN’s facilities and provide a forum to keep experts connected and updated. Participants also enjoyed visits of the installations, complemented with a tour of the CERN safety training centre in Prévessin on the final day.

“This event gave us the possibility to share our knowledge through presentations but also through networking breaks, visits and social events,” said Yves Loertscher, head of the CERN HSE occupational health & safety group and organiser of this year’s ITSF event. “After a break of almost three years owing to the pandemic, it is a pleasure to interact directly with peers again and share new ways of thinking and acting in matters of occupational health & safety and environmental protection”.

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