NASA Security Badges are a Health and Safety Risk

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Of all the things that could possibly go wrong for the US space agency, you wouldn’t expect the security ID badge holder of NASA employees to rank very high on the list of “risks.” Unfortunately, the new high-tech security badge holders recently issued to NASA employees have been identified as having a fairly problematic health and safety design flaw. Should the badges’ metal clasps be installed incorrectly, they could pose a projectile risk, possibly causing serious eye injuries…

Admittedly, this isn’t big news in the realms of the space exploration, but it is news nonetheless, proving that even NASA cannot escape from clerical design flaws. In an effort to fall in line with President Bush’s Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, NASA employees have to carry a new type of badge which is protected against being read from a distance and also provides the wearer with some freedom as to when they want to show it. Unfortunately, there is a design flaw with the badge and on August 15th, NASA had to issue a warning to Kennedy Space Center employees stating that the new Identity Stronghold badge holder has the “potential to introduce dangerous Foreign Object Damage (FOD) to flight hardware areas and can cause personnel injury if the metal clips are installed improperly.”

According to new guidelines, when removing the badge, the employee must not aim the metal clips at a colleague as it could create a potential eye injury hazard, technically known as Foreign (or Flying) Object Damage (FOD). I’d imaging this being an acute problem during security checks, guards flinching as employees show their badges, fearful of a metal clasp flying at their faces. Not only that, employees are advised not to play with their badges around sensitive electronics:

The badge holder may separate with little effort, allowing the clips, the front half of the holder and badge ID to separate creating a significant FOD hazard in controlled areas […] Personnel should ensure the badge holder is not worn, or is properly secured, in the vicinity of sensitive flight hardware, such as electronics, where FOD may be an issue […] When removing your badge, do not point [the] end with metal clips towards your face or another person.” – Randy Aden, Office of Protective Services, Jet Propulsion Lab.

Use of the badge holder, made by the Florida-based company Identity Stronghold, has now been suspended and a temporary clear plastic holder is being used in its place. The Stronghold design was chosen as it has an “electromagnetically opaque sleeve to prevent the card from being read at a distance and to give the user some control over when and where the card is exposed for reading,” according to the source Information Week article.

Interestingly, the Identity Stronghold website proudly states that its Secure Badgeholder “has been awarded the 2008 GOOD DESIGN award for product design.” I don’t think the “GOOD DESIGN” award was good enough.

Fortunately there have been no reports of serious card holder-related FOD injuries so far. Who would have thought an ID badge could be so dangerous?

Source: Information Week

13 Replies to “NASA Security Badges are a Health and Safety Risk”

  1. “…technically known as Flying Object Damage (FOD).”

    I love how NASA folks need to make yet another acronym.

  2. I’m surprised at Universe Today falling for wimpy Dhimmicrat anti-Bush propaganda. This is a security feature: NASA is clearly a target for terrorism. If a NASA employee sees a suspicious bearded person with a briefcase with a flashing red light on it, all he has to do is unobtrusively touch his badge and… poinnnnng! another victory for FreedomTM.

  3. Either read the article or not. FYI I don’t care to know if you liked it or not.

    I for one think that the bathroom cleaning schedule is important information. There is no need to get all pissy;)

  4. I’ll bet the badges are dangerous if you throw them like Ninja throwing stars, too!

    A different kind of story. I like it.

    “And now…something completely different….”

  5. @Ian

    random thoughts:

    -Is the badge a test technique failure or a design failure?

    -I guess this means that protocol must be written that would encourage trained professional scientists and other employees not to play with things at work.

    -There’s potentially some good follow up material for future articles on UT: the relationship between science and culture (terrorism threats, ideological clashes, religion, and so on)…the ID badge issue sounds a bit silly but I think there’s some commentary here on where we are in terms of national science programs/space programs and their interplay with cultural/political/religious issues.

  6. As Ross points out FOD is a long-standing acronym in the aerospace industry.

    While the possibility of eye injury sounds somewhat overblown FOD is a serious problem. Even a tiny clip in the wrong place on a aircraft, or a space shuttle, could cause disaster.

  7. Clerical design flaw! Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12! New style badge! Protection against reading from afar! To show the badge when the wearer wants to! Are these guys nuts? If this foggy thinking is typical of what is coming out of Washington; it is no wonder our nation is is in deep trouble. Gawd! Do we need change! Is this a political statement? Nope! Just an observation.

  8. The moral of the story : sometimes low-tech is better.

    Have a badge that can only be read when directly inserted into the device.

    Have security guards who know the employees by name, and will stop someone they don’t know.

    Have people watching so that someone with no badge pinned on, or who are standing at a door fiddling with the panel instead of going through it (or sliding the card and failing to succeed) – will be intercepted.

    Newer doesn’t always mean better.

  9. So uhh… instead of replacing or improving the ‘dangerous’ badges they just get a warning and business as usual? That seems very un-NASA.

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