Summary of Safety at the High Pressure Combustion Laboratory
The safety process at the High Pressure Combustion Laboratory (HPCL) of the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) is composed of many layers, ranging from compliance with government regulations at all levels to informal training and oversight within the lab environment. Policies established by agencies with oversight responsibilities are followed, and the HPCL is subject to inspections and audits by these organizations. Safe operation of research projects is ensured by both programmatic (regulations and procedures) and material (design and facilities) means.
General Programmatic and Administrative Safety
Under Department of Defense (DOD) contracts, the HPCL is obligated to comply with safety guidance and requirements as set forth in DOD 4145.26-M, “DOD Contractors’ Safety Manual for Ammunition and Explosives.” Pre-award surveys and safety audits are conducted periodically by the Defense Contract Management Agency to ensure that the HPCL meets the requirements of DOD 4145.26-M and can safely and successfully complete the contracts. There are no outstanding safety issues or concerns from previous inspections.
The explosive storage facilities near the HPCL are licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) as specified in 27 CFR 55. Periodic inspections are made by ATF of the storage and operating facilities to ensure compliance with ATF regulations and safe operating practices. No safety issues are outstanding.
Storage magazines are also licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under 25 PA Code Chs. 210 and 211 and are subject to periodic inspections. All inspections have resulted in satisfactory evaluations.
In addition to external agencies, there are internal PSU policies governing lab safety and operation. The HPCL works closely with PSU Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) on topics such as hazardous and chemical waste handling, fire safety, and X-ray operation. EHS requires and provides training on these items. Again, the HPCL is subject to periodic inspections and has no outstanding safety issues. Through their policies and inspections, EHS also enforces applicable US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
Finally, there is an extensive internal safety program in place at the HPCL. The HPCL's safety manual is followed for all operations at the lab. All projects working with ammunition and explosives have a hazard analysis conducted during the design and planning phase, which is updated as warranted while the project progresses. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are developed based on prior experience, best practices from other facilities, and items identified through the hazard analysis. Safety seminars are given as appropriate as refreshers on current practices or to address new issues. Self-audits are performed frequently.