University responds to fatal accident at Magnet Lab

UPDATE – Oct. 22, 2015, 4:44 p.m.

FSU provides preliminary details of MagLab accident

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 at about 10 a.m., an accident occurred at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) that resulted in the fatality of a mechanical worker.

Glenn Nix, who worked as a mechanical trades technician at the MagLab, was part of a crew working on a new magnet under construction within the lab’s Direct Current (DC) Field Facility when the accident occurred.

The crew was working on part of the system that would supply cooling water to the magnet during operation. They attempted to remove a steel cap from the end of the water supply pipe and encountered a release of pressurized air and water that propelled the cap forward, striking Nix.

Medical autopsy findings are still pending to determine the exact cause of death.

An emergency call for assistance was made by another team member, and the MagLab’s safety department provided the initial emergency response, followed by the FSU Police, City of Tallahassee Fire and Police Departments and Emergency Medical Technicians.

An investigation is ongoing.

MagLab leadership and FSU officials convened an all-hands staff meeting within 90 minutes of the incident. Grief counselors were on-site immediately following the incident and continue to be available.

The magnets housed within the lab’s DC Field Facility are connected to cooling water pipes. Immediately following the incident, that facility was shut down. The MagLab’s facilities and safety teams performed an initial inspection of the magnet cooling water pumps and determined that the incident was confined to the magnet construction area. The magnet cooling water system was secured, and the DC Field Facility remains shut down.

There was never a threat to users, other staff or the public.

The MagLab is fully cooperating with authorities in the continuing investigation. An official investigative report from the FSU police department is expected to be completed in the near future.

ORIGINAL STORY – OCT. 21, 2015, 2:51 p.m.

University responds to fatal accident at Magnet Lab

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — An employee of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University died this morning in a workplace accident while working on a magnet construction project.

The employee, who worked on the facilities staff at the MagLab, was pronounced dead at the scene. Florida State University Police identified him as Glenn Nix. A second employee was treated at the scene for minor injuries and released.

There was no ongoing safety risk to MagLab employees or the public as a result of the accident. Next of kin has been notified and grief counselors are on the scene speaking with employees. Employees seeking professional counseling are advised to contact the Employee Assistance Program.

FSU Police were notified at 10:13 a.m. Wednesday. Police arrived on the scene immediately and launched an investigation. Leon County EMS, TFD and TPD also responded.

“This is truly a tragic event and my heart goes out to the family of the employee,” said Gary K. Ostrander, Florida State University Vice President for Research. “Such a loss is difficult to absorb for such a close and caring community. We are here to provide support to those who need it.

“Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and MagLab community,” University President John Thrasher said. “I hope everyone at FSU will keep Glenn and his family in their prayers during this difficult time.”

The “How Time McFlies” community event scheduled for this evening at the MagLab was immediately cancelled following the accident.

The only magnet lab of its kind in the United States, the MagLab is home to some of the largest and most powerful magnets in the world. The lab was established by the National Science Foundation in 1990.