Safety at WSTF

    The employees of NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) are dedicated to ensuring a world-class level of health and safety for all personnel. WSTF believes all injuries are preventable and working safely is a condition of continued employment. Because WSTF is located in a remote area for the purpose of testing hazardous materials, certain natural and operational hazards are inherent as a part of the work done at WSTF.

    Managing Risk

    Management has the responsibility to manage the risk at WSTF. Federal, state, and local rules were established to operate WSTF in a safe manner. Safety is an extremely important part of the WSTF mission and all employees take their responsibility seriously to work to those rules and minimize the risk to themselves and to others.

    Fire Department

    WSTF OSHA VPP Star Site

    Due to WSTF’s compliance with safety regulations and implementation of measures to ensure safety for employees, as well as the environment, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) designated WSTF a “Volunteer Protection Program (VPP) Star Site.” Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

    VPP Star

    Operational Hazards

    WSTF usually has large quantities of hypergolic fuels and oxidizers stored on site. Hypergolic propellants are used as rocket fuel because they do not require an ignition source or oxygen to react, but react on contact with each other. The properties of these fuels and oxidizers make them very hazardous. They are also toxic, corrosive, and harmful if inhaled, ingested, or simply through contact.

    Fuel Storage

    Other hazardous commodities are onsite, such as cryogenics (super cold fluids, below -423 °F) liquid hydrogen, liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen (LOX) and high pressure gasses at operating pressures in excess of 3,000 psi.

    Natural Hazards

    The desert has a wide assortment of creatures that could inflict harm on WSTF employees. Rattlesnakes, ring-tail cats, spiders, scorpions, coyotes, and rodents are just some of the critters that live near the work area during various times of the year. The Fire Department at WSTF is trained to handle these critters safely and can be called to capture and return them to their natural habitat.


    Flash floods, lightning storms, and high winds can come up suddenly. During high winds, certain areas of the site are closed until hazardous weather conditions have passed. During heavy rains, flooded roadways and fast running water can create a hazard. Drivers must use caution because rocks and sand may be just below the surface of the water. WSTF Emergency Services vehicles check the access road for adverse conditions and place roadblocks in hazardous areas whenever necessary.

    Heat stress is a common hazard in this area. Head coverings and sun block (SPF 15 or greater) are recommended when it is necessary to be in the sun for long periods. Overheating can cause sun stroke and sunburns. Heat index advisories are posted on the web daily during the summer months. Any heat-related injuries are referred immediately to the site clinic or Fire Department EMTs.

    Controlled and/or Restricted Areas

    Access to hazardous operations areas is controlled by traffic lights and warning signs leading into the areas. Sirens are included as part of the test area warning system to alert the site in case of a chemical spill, fire, or other emergency. Employees are trained in evacuation procedures for safety and accountability in an emergency.

    Warning Sign

    WSTF Safety and Health Capabilities.pdf

    For more information, contact Alton Luper at (575) 524-5284, or