JAC Safety Manual - Chapter 9: Mauna Kea Safety
MAUNA KEA SAFETY POLICIES - GENERAL
This chapter sets general policies and procedures for
safety of staff and visitors on Mauna Kea and includes the
emergency plans and equipment locations for JCMT and UKIRT.
Other policies and procedures specific to the telescope sites
are covered in the next chapter.
Mauna Kea is an isolated site with special hazards,
some of which are not obvious especially to visitors. You
should be aware of the hazards given in this manual and be
prepared to comply with the requirements of the TSS/WL/MKSS,
especially as regards evacuation of a summit facility. The
"Mauna Kea Observatories Winter Policies and Procedures" are
given in Addendum 9.
B. Hale Pohaku
Conditions at Hale Pohaku (HP) are unusual due to its
remote location and high altitude. There are special hazards
which are not always self evident. All new employees will
receive orientation on safety related equipment, policies and
Ensures that new employees receive appropriate
training and that any new procedures introduced are fully
explained to staff. Informs the Site Safety Advisor of any
safety related issues.
Follows all safety policies and alerts supervisor to
any potential hazards.
- Site Safety Advisor
Advises all staff of any new safety related items and
acts as a liaison between the Mauna Kea Support Services and
- All staff and visitors staying at HP shall
familiarise themselves with the safety information packet
that is provided at Hale Pohaku in individual rooms.
- All staff and visitors shall be aware of any special
messages posted on the weather notice board near the main
entrance. Our policy is to follow any direct instructions
given on the board and signed by the MKSS representative.
C. Emergency Procedures
for Ice/Snow/Poor Road Conditions
This section covers emergency procedures involving
staff/observers on Mauna Kea. Due to high altitude hazards of
Mauna Kea and the possibility of week long storms which make
rescue at the summit impossible, staff and observers shall be
well acquainted with the procedures in this section.
Supervisors need to ensure that their staff are aware
of, and follow, the procedures below.
Maintains awareness of the Ice/Snow/Poor Road
Condition procedures and monitors current weather
- If Ice/Snow/Poor Road Conditions occur before
your required presence at the summit follow the procedures
To help establish the extent of the ice/snow/poor
road conditions the following procedures shall be
If the JCMT has been closed overnight due to
bad weather then the JCMT TSS and their buddy
shall meet at HP around 6:30a.m. and drive to JCMT and
UKIRT if possible. Use a vehicle with studded tires or
fit chains as directed by MKSS.
The TSS and their buddy will then survey the
road conditions and inspect JCMT, if possible. Follow
the Ice and Snow Condition Procedures, Chapter 10 section D4.
All exits shall be cleared of snow/ice
immediately upon arrival and before occupying JCMT and
UKIRT. Hard hats shall be worn if there is any
chance of ice/snowfall hazard. All JAC staff are
authorized to clear the exits. However, only trained
ETS staff supervised by the designated snow crew
leader are authorized to clear snow off of JCMT and
UKIRT. Note: Even if UKIRT is being operated remotely
the entrances shall be cleared before the JCMT TSS can
make an internal inspection of the dome.
The information gained by this survey shall be
relayed to the Facility Maintenance Manager, or the
designated snow crew leader before 7:30 a.m. If
neither are contactable then contact the JCMT
Operations Manager at the Hilo Office (during normal
work hours) or at their residence (after hours).
The above information shall also be given to
the MKSS General Manager or his representative, either
by phone at 974-4205 or by email to
The TSS may monitor conditions from HP using
the JCMT and UKIRT cameras and other sources in order
to provide up to date information as required.
If the road closed sign is posted on the road, do
not drive past it unless you have clearance from the
MKSS General Manager or his representative.
Road and weather information will be posted on
the message board in the Hale Pohaku Lobby.
Once access is available
to each of the facilities, an announcement will be made
using the HP message board. Check email for road
conditions as well.
The MKSS General Manager will be available for
specific updates to observatory staff at HP.
The general public will be notified through the summit weather
report message machine generally by 6:30 a.m.
Public calls to facilities asking about conditions
should be referred to this phone number: 935-6268 (Road
When the road is closed
to the public but open to facilities only,
observatory vehicles will be allowed to pass the
Snow removal vehicles
have the "right of way". Do not pass equipment without
the operator's attention.
shall install snow chains if it is required by MKSS. If
you are not familiar with installing chains, review the
training video and arrange refresher training with the
JAC SSA if desired.
ETS will make it clear
whether it is ok to open, or it is at the discretion
of the TSS, or the telescope should remain closed. If
there is any ambiguity, the TSS shall contact the Snow
Crew Leader. Failing that, either the Site Safety
Advisor, or the Chief Engineer, or the JCMT Operations
Manager (for JCMT), or the UKIRT Head of Operations (for
UKIRT) (in this order) shall be consulted before
attempting to open.
If Ice/Snow/Poor Road
Conditions occur when you are at JCMT or UKIRT (summit)
follow the procedures below.
If because of worsening
conditions the decision is made to evacuate the facility,
staff shall notify others on MK. A phone tree has
been established to notify all facilities. Call one member
of your group and one from the other group. Ask them to
call the rest of the group. If there is no answer at the
first observatory then continue through the list until you
get an answer or run out of numbers to call.
Establish and maintain
contact with the Facility Maintenance Manager and Snow
Crew Leader regardless of the time as well as with other
facilities on Mauna Kea.
Monitor, by both remote and visual inspection,
the status of the weather at the summit.
Staff shall position the carousel (JCMT), dome
(UKIRT) as follows:
Report road conditions
to MKSS by calling one of the following numbers.
UH 88" (974-4200)
If practicable notify JAC Hilo Office (Site
Safety Advisor) of the evacuation. On arrival at Hale
Pohaku staff shall contact in order of preference, the
Site Safety Advisor, Facility Maintenance Manager, or
the snow crew leader.
Write road and weather conditions on the message
board at the Hale Pohaku lobby including the date, time,
conditions encountered and the staff member's name and
Additional information and winter contact numbers
can be found in the Mauna Kea Support Services
Emergency Procedures (red booklet).
MKSS Hilo Office (974-4205)
Utility Dept. (935-0193)
OMKM Ranger (934-9244)Emergency(VIS
cell: (960-3077)at Visitor Center
MKSS General Manager:
before 10:00p.m. (961-2866)(961-2816)
MKSS General Manager:
after 10:00p.m. leave email
Send email to road-conditions:
(see address in
JAC Eyes Only)
This allows the MKSS road crew to be ready to
clear the MK summit road as soon as possible.
D. This section has been left blank
E. Personal Protective Equipment
Specific to Mauna Kea
JAC policy on use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
is in Chapter 3. PPE
relevant to all JAC sites is covered in that chapter.
Equipment specific to Mauna Kea is described below.
- Implements JAC policy by assessing hazards,
removing them where feasible and otherwise arranging for
provision of PPE.
- Ensures that staff are familiar with the PPE
provided and are properly trained in its use.
- Uses all PPE as required and in accordance with
- Alerts supervisor if PPE is defective or missing.
- Alerts supervisor to any hazardous situations
requiring additional PPE.
- Informs SSA when PPE supplies are running low so
that supplies can be replenished.
- Site Safety Advisor
Arranges and purchases recommended PPE. Assists
supervisor in choosing the appropriate PPE.
Safety footwear shall be worn by all JAC staff and
visiting instrument personnel above Hale Pohaku for
- It is recommended that anyone driving or working
outside in the daytime on the summit shall wear UV
Subject to the approval
of the Site Safety Advisor, staff who require UV
protective glasses (and who do not already own a
suitable pair) may claim a contribution towards the cost
Non-prescription UV blocking sunglasses: an
allowance of up to $60 towards the total cost.
Prescription UV blocking sunglasses: the
actual, reasonable costs of prescription lenses plus
an allowance of up to $60 towards the cost of the
In both cases, an itemised
receipt for the purchase of the sunglasses is required.
Should the eyewear require replacement, the
allowances may be repeated with the approval of the Site
Cold weather gear:
Down jackets and gloves
are provided for staff who work frequently at the summit. This
provision is administered by the Site Safety Advisor who will
determine the need for new or replacement items. Cleaning
costs will be borne by the JAC.
Any staff who are working
outside for more than a few minutes should wear sunscreen.
Sunscreen is provided at JCMT and UKIRT.
Note: Personal equipment provided at JAC's
expense shall be surrendered upon leaving the JAC if the Site
Safety Advisor considers it appropriate.
- The following equipment are provided for staff at
the summit: (see Chapter 11
C for locations)
- laser glasses
- hard hats
- back supports (JCMT only)
- wet weather gear
- insulated cryogenic gloves, protective goggles,
F. Summit Smoking
In compliance with Hawaii State law, smoking is
prohibited in all JAC buildings, including the facilities at
the summit. In addition, smoking is prohibited within 20
feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation
intakes that serve an enclosed or partially enclosed area
where smoking is prohibited.
1. General Policy
G. Policy on Stays at
Safety at altitude requires a common sense
approach. This dictates that workers on Mauna Kea (MK) -
especially newcomers - shall acclimatize cautiously and not
proceed above HP if feeling unwell. Staff shall be familiar
with the symptoms of serious altitude sickness, monitor the
condition of fellow workers, and know what action to take if a
problem arises. See Chapter 9 section J
for a full list of symptoms and Chapter
11 section J for procedures to follow should anyone be
affected. Everyone on MK should be aware that altitude can
affect the judgement of individuals, sometimes dangerously.
Visitors should avoid strenuous activities. Persons with known
medical conditions that could affect them at altitude shall be
discouraged from visiting the summit.
- JAC Staff
- All staff who are
required to work above HP shall take, and pass, a High
Altitude Physical exam upon joining JAC and repeat it at
the frequency specified in section H4.
JAC Hilo based staff that may occasionally (less than 4
times a year) be required to work above HP need not take
the full examination, but shall confirm with their
physician that there are no known medical reasons why they
should not travel to altitude.
- No more than 14 hours shall be spent above HP in
any 24-hour period.
- For planned stays above HP of not more than 8
consecutive hours, staff travelling up from sea-level are
recommended to rest at HP for at least 30 minutes to help
get adjusted to altitude. Staff who have not been to
altitude for a long period, say one to two weeks, or who
may be suffering jet lag, are recommended to extend the
rest period as in iv. below.
- Staff planning to be
above HP for between 8 and 14 consecutive hours are
recommended to spend at least eight hours at HP before
proceeding to the summit.
- If staff who have been
working late feel it is unsafe for them to drive down to
Hilo they are encouraged to sleep over at HP. Provisions
have been made for accommodation to be provided. This may
be accomplished by contacting a cook (if available) or by
using one of the contact phone numbers located on the
- Note the provisions in section J2 for staff who
suffer persistently from symptoms of mountain sickness.
- STFC Staff
All STFC employees, whether JAC staff or visitors,
shall have completed a high altitude physical exam prior to
traveling above HP. STFC employees are specifically
prohibited from traveling above HP having only signed a
medical disclaimer. This is a STFC requirement to which
there are no exceptions.
- All observers planning to go to the telescope
shall read and sign the Medical Alert Disclaimer form
which warns of the potential dangers of working at
- No more than 14 hours shall be spent above HP in
any 24-hour period.
- It is recommended that observers coming from
sea-level who plan to stay above HP for not more than
eight consecutive hours rest at HP for at least 30 minutes
to get adjusted to altitude. Those who have not been to
altitude for one to two weeks, or who may be suffering jet
lag, are recommended to extend the rest period as in item
- It is recommended that observers coming from
sea-level who have travelled more than 1000 miles OR who
plan to stay above HP for more than eight consecutive
hours spend at least eight hours (and preferably the night
before their observing run) at HP, before proceeding to
- Note the provisions in section J2 for staff
observers who suffer persistently from symptoms of
- The JAC policy for visits to the summit can be
found in the administration procedures published on the
internal web. Follow
the link here.
- On pre-arranged visits to the summit, all visitors
shall either sign a Medical Alert
Disclaimer Form or have prior medical clearance -
regardless of the time they intend to spend above HP. The
completed form shall be returned to the JCMT/UKIRT
Executive Assistant by the person inviting or admitting
the visitors. Normally, casual visits to the summit will
not exceed three consecutive hours, and for planned visits
of this duration, a minimum rest period of one hour is
recommended. Exceptionally, where casual visits are
planned for periods of over three hours or where visitors
have travelled more than 1000 miles without a suitable
break, it is recommended that the rest period at HP is
extended as in section
a.iv. above. Visitors under the age of 16 years are
- Tourists and visitors
without pre-arrangements who arrive at the summit
unannounced may be admitted to the telescope provided that
- the party is not too large to be safely
- a member of staff is available and willing to be
responsible for them;
- they sign disclaimers;
- their party does not contain individuals under
the age of 16.
Parties of tourists from commercial tour
companies will not be admitted.
Should a tourist seek assistance when ill, the
staff concerned shall exercise their initiative in
balancing the needs of the patient with those of the
JAC. Options include:
- Calling the emergency services for advice or
- Allowing the patient to rest
- Obtaining assistance from other summit
facilities (e.g. arranging for a ride to HP)
- In extreme circumstances taking the patient to
HP or Hilo which may involve closing the facility.
No one shall be left alone in JCMT or UKIRT. There shall
always be at least two people in or around the building when
it is occupied, including lunch time. There shall always be a
working vehicle available when the building is occupied. At
least one occupant shall be capable of driving the 4-wheel
drive vehicle. There shall be enough seats in the available
vehicles to accommodate the number of people in the building.
4. Consumption of
Alcohol at the Summit
5. Sleeping at the Summit
- Consumption of alcohol at the summit is prohibited.
- Any staff who have consumed alcohol may not drive a
JAC vehicle or work in a JAC facility for at least 8 hours.
- Operation of a JAC vehicle while under the influence
of alcohol is strictly prohibited.
Sleeping at the summit is prohibited unless stranded due
to bad weather. JAC policies are designed to avoid such
situations because of the potential hazards posed by sleeping
at the summit.
6. SCUBA diving
before going to high altitude
If you ascend to high altitude after SCUBA diving you
risk formation of nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream. This
leads to a potentially fatal condition called "Decompression
Sickness" (commonly known as "the bends"). It is thus vitally
important that you not ascend to high altitude (HP or above)
too soon after SCUBA diving.
You shall wait at least 24 hours after diving before
ascending to HP altitude. If you have made repetitive or
deep dives or are in any doubt, you shall extend this
interval to at least 48 hours.
H. High Altitude
The normal JAC policy is that the high
altitude medical will be administered by the JAC's consulting
physician. If, exceptionally, an employee wishes to use their
own physician then an estimate of the costs together with
details of the physician(s) to be used shall be submitted to
the Human Resources (HR) Group for approval in advance of any
examination. Approval will not be given where costs
significantly exceed those of the JAC's consulting physician
and/or where the physician(s) are not considered qualified to
perform the relevant examinations(s). In all cases, a CERTIFICATE OF FITNESS FOR WORK
AT HIGH ALTITUDE, available from the
Group, shall be completed. The certificate includes guidance
on the range of tests/examinations that are required.
2. Special medical examination form
You may obtain the SPECIAL MEDICAL EXAMINATION PRIOR TO WORK AT HIGH
ALTITUDE form from the JAC Personnel Section.
3. Certificate of fitness for work at high altitude
You may obtain the CERTIFICATE OF FITNESS FOR WORK AT HIGH ALTITUDE
form from the JAC Personnel Section.
4. Exam Frequencies
Category / Frequency of
Every 5 years
Every 3 years
* Annual examinations will also apply to staff with
an identified medical problem but who are still considered
fit to work at altitude.
Any member of staff who is required to work on the
summit may request to have an annual medical examination.
I. Medical Alert
J. Acute Mountain
All staff and visitors shall be familiar with the signs
and symptoms of high altitude/mountain sickness. JAC policy is
to err on the side of safety when dealing with actual or
potential mountain sickness. Visitors or staff experiencing
symptoms shall inform the TSS/WL at once. All high altitude/mountain sickness shall be
reported as a 'work related illness' - reference Chapter
1, Section D on reporting procedures. A
decision will then be taken on whether the individual shall
descend from altitude. A list of high altitude sickness
- mild shortness of breath
- a change in visual activity
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath
- sudden onset of severe unrelenting headaches
- chest pain
- abdominal pain
WARNING: It may not be sufficient to descend to
Hale Pohaku upon experiencing high altitude sickness. If in
doubt, descend to Hilo Medical Center. Report all cases of
high altitude sickness to the Site Safety Advisor within 8
- slurred speech
- visual disturbance
- loss of coordination
- slow or rapid heart beat
- labored breathing
- unrelenting nausea or vomiting
In all cases of mountain sickness the decision on
whether an individual shall descend from altitude rests with
the TSS/WL. Every case shall be assessed in the light of the
symptoms but particular provisions apply to visitors and staff
who suffer from repeated incidents of mountain sickness:
3. Attendance at
Hilo Medical Center (HMC)
- Visitors and Observers
If a visitor or observer is sick on two consecutive
observing runs they shall be instructed to leave the summit
and to seek medical advice before returning. A visitor or
observer having a history of illness at the summit
shall be instructed to leave upon a single new incident of
illness unless they have a statement from a physician
confirming that it is safe for them to continue working if
the symptoms are recognized as minor and recurrent.
If a staff member is sick on two consecutive trips to
the summit they shall seek medical advice - normally from
JAC's consulting physician - before returning.
JAC vehicles are to be operated safely in a manner
consistent with local, state, and federal laws. All accidents
shall be reported promptly according to the procedures
outlined below. Smoking is not permitted in JAC vehicles.
- Driver's Supervisor
Ensures that vehicles are used only for official JAC
business and carry only authorized passengers.
- Facility Maintenance Manager/Fleet Manager
- Oversees maintenance and repair of vehicles.
- Ensures that vehicles are equipped with a spare
tire, jack, lug wrench, and general safety equipment.
- Fleet Manager
Periodically inspects vehicles and ensures
performance of scheduled maintenance.
Uses the vehicle only for conducting official
business of the JAC.
Wears seat belt at all times while the vehicle is
in motion. The driver shall ensure that all passengers
fasten their seat belts before the vehicle moves in
accordance with JAC rules at K.3.b.iii.
Operates the vehicle in a safe manner conforming
to traffic laws and road conditions.
shall check that the vehicle is in safe working
condition before use.
minor and major vehicle problems shall be reported via
the OMP Fault Reporting System. Visitors shall request
their TSS to file one on their behalf. Major
vehicle problems occurring outside of normal working
hours shall also be reported to the Site Safety Advisor
by phone. Phone numbers are listed in the Vehicle
Information booklet located in the glove compartment of
all JAC vehicles. Before leaving any potentially unsafe
vehicle, place a written note in a prominent location
(e.g. driver's seat) briefly explaining the situation
and hang the "Vehicle Unsafe" tag on the mirror. This
tag is located in the vehicle's glove compartment.
Drivers shall not use any handheld device
including mobile and satellite phones while in a JAC
vehicle. (Note that using the phone even while parked is
- Reporting Vehicle Problems
- Vehicle problems shall be submitted to the vehicle
scheduler via the OMP Fault
Reporting System for prompt action. Visitors shall request
their TSS to file one on their behalf.
- If involved in a vehicle accident, follow the
Motor Vehicle Accident Procedures in the Vehicle
Information Booklet. The booklet is located in the glove
compartment of all JAC vehicles.
- When to fill-up gasoline at
the designated service station in Hilo:
- 4-wheel drive vehicles: Always fill-up on the
way to the summit because a schedule change may
require that vehicle to remain at the summit.
- 2-wheel drive vehicles: It is recommended that
these vehicles be filled as well. This shall be done
if there is less than 1/3 tank of fuel.
- If less than 1/3 tank of fuel remains then it
is recommended to fill-up the tank upon returning to
When to fill-up gasoline at HP
Before taking a vehicle to the summit from HP -
check the fuel level - there shall be no less than 1/3
tank of fuel as this is the minimum amount of fuel
necessary to reach Hilo in cases of emergency.
- Staff and visitors who have never driven JAC vehicles on the
MK summit road shall drive at least one round-trip
carrying an experienced driver as a passenger before
driving alone. The experienced driver shall explain all
of the points on the driver's checklist in Addendum
8 and the new
driver shall keep a copy for reference. This requirement
shall be repeated on every occasion where there is a
period of more than 12 months between drives on the MK
summit road. If new drivers wish to be driven a short
distance before they make the accompanied drive, that
wish shall be accommodated.
on the MK summit road in non-JAC vehicles within the previous
12 months (e.g. visiting astronomers from other MK
observatories), the JAC associated staff member shall still
ensure that the visitor is briefed on the current JAC vehicle
use policy and is given a copy of the driver's checklist at Addendum 8.
- For everyone's safety, all occupants of the
vehicle shall wear seat belts while the vehicle is moving.
- JAC vehicles shall not be used to transport people
under age 16 to the summit.
- JAC vehicles shall not be used to tow other
vehicles except our own JAC vehicles. If you are called to
give assistance the normal response shall be to call the
emergency services or a breakdown service.
- JAC vehicles shall not be used to pick-up hitch
hikers unless they are injured or in distress and only
taken down to mid-level facilities or the EMS rendezvous
site. In all cases consider calling the emergency services
and/or the MKSS Rangers for professional help.
- Follow posted summit speed limits.
- Follow instructions for operating JAC's 4-wheel
drive vehicles on the summit. (instructions are located in
- All JAC vehicles shall be locked upon parking in
the JAC Hilo office and HP parking lots. This is because
there have been instances of safety-related equipment
being stolen. Vehicles shall be left un-locked at the
summit in order to avoid the locks freezing closed.
- All windows shall be kept closed between HP and
the summit to reduce dust in vehicles.
- Driving on the road above HP around dusk or dawn
may present severe hazards associated with glare from the
low sun angles and dust. The advice of the TSS/WL on safe
departure times from HP and UKIRT/JCMT shall be heeded.
- Be sure that when traveling to or from Mauna Kea
you have adequate clothing.
- When driving on the summit road, drivers shall use
headlights at all times.
- Winter Driving Procedures
- During the winter months at least two JAC vehicles
are equipped with either studded or winter tires. These
vehicles shall normally be used only during the night,
they may be used during the day only if no other vehicle
is available. The studded tire vehicle shall not be driven
below HP except in emergencies.
- All 4-wheel drive vehicles have snow chains stored
in the vehicle.
- During hazardous driving conditions, those with
the most summit driving experience shall drive.
- When driving downhill on ice, use the lowest
possible gear and try not to use the brakes. If safe to do
so engage 4-wheel drive low.
- All staff/observers shall maintain a watch for
dangerous road conditions and inform MKSS and other
observatories as appropriate.
- If MKSS issues an evacuation or road closed order,
all facilities shall comply.
- During icy or snowy conditions use the gears
rather than the parking brake when parking at the summit
to avoid brake freezing. Block the tires when appropriate.
4. Safety Equipment
- All vehicles are fitted with:
- flashlight - located in the front glove
- fire extinguisher
- first aid kit
- first aid exposure protection kit
- pocket rescue mask
- highway safety kit
- snow chains (4WD vehicles only)
- gloves for use in emergency
- emergency blankets - located both in the glove
compartment and rear storage box
- battery jumper cables
- unsafe vehicle tag
- tire pressure gauge
- satellite phone
- sun guard visor
- vehicle information booklet:
Safety kits and a cellular phone for rental
vehicles travelling to Mauna Kea, may be checked-out at
the JAC reception desk. Rental vehicle safety kit
- dust control instructions
- satellite phone instructions
- tire pressure specifications
- vehicle accident procedures
- emergency telephone numbers
- public roadblock guidelines
- driving instructions for 4WD vehicles (4WDs
- Mauna Kea winter driving recommendations (4WDs
- Mauna Kea vehicle procedures checklist (Addendum 8)
- map of routes to Hilo Medical Center
- summit fire policy/responsibilities/re-entry
- Two emergency thermal blankets
- First aid exposure protection kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Pocket mask
- Highway safety kit
- Battery jumper cables
- First aid kit
Use of Satellite Phone
In general the satellite phones
shall only be used for emergencies and the following
satellite phone may be used to contact the telescopes or
the JAC for operational issues, e.g. to permit removal
of a lockout/tagout.
satellite phone may be used to call a taxi for visiting
observers on arrival at JAC and unable to access the
satellite phone shall not be left switched on.
Stranded at Night
The first recourse if a JAC vehicle breaks down in the
night is to summon assistance using the satellite phone. Staff
shall use common sense in determining whether it's safer to
wait in the vehicle until another vehicle passes by, or
attempt to walk, leaving the vehicle clearly marked as a
hazard for other road users (see also section
K3b above). Decisions shall take account of the time of
night, location of vehicle, weather conditions and suitable