Basic Safety

These instructions are meant for your personal safety, as well as for the care of observatory equipment and installations. Please read, follow, and make others follow these instructions. Safety is a major concern, not only at Las Campanas, but in the country in general. 

General rules:

  • Please observe and respect all signs and instructions.
  •  Not following instructions of the personnel in emergency situations (weather, fire, earthquake, etc.) will result in immediate transportation away from the mountain to La Serena offices, and may imply banning further visits.
  • When in doubt, always ask the local personnel.

1. Safety on the road

The road is and has been the biggest safety hazard at Las Campanas. The conditions of the road are usually misleadingly good, inviting fast and careless driving.

Visitors should NOT drive to and from the mountain. The chances of an accident are greatly reduced with knowledge of the road and experience with mountain driving. This holds for company cars as well as private or rented vehicles. If, for any reason, you must drive to the mountain, make sure that the office in La Serena has been informed of your departure, and your estimates time of arrival. If you drive to La Serena, report your departure. If your car has a 2-way radio, make sure to report your position at the turn-off point form the Pan-American highway, both coming and going. When arriving at the observatory, inform again over the radio.

Visitors are allowed to drive on the mountain. Please use ONLY the car you have been allocated. Driving on the mountain is restricted to the roads between the lodge and the telescopes. If you are going to drive anywhere else (La Silla, Las Campanas peak, hiking, etc.) you must get permission to do so. Ask someone on the technical staff for instructions on how to obtain permission.


Maximum speed on the mountain is 30-mph (50 km/h) in the daytime, and 20-mph (30 km/h) at night. Passing is NOT allowed anywhere on the mountain, with the possible exception of passing heavy and slow machinery, only if you have adequate visibility.


During bad weather conditions, driving has to be reduced to an absolute minimum. Please return to the Lodge while conditions still allow driving back safely. After a snowstorm, maintenance personnel will, first of all, clean the road to the telescopes. DO NOT go to the telescopes before the road has been cleared. Ice is as much of a hazard as snow, or more. Watch out for slippery roads.

2. Safety on the mountain

Like at any Observatory, there are areas of potential danger on the mountain. These are mostly related to:

a) Falling from heights
b) Falling objects
c) Being trapped by machinery or mechanisms

As a general safety rule, do not explore facilities on the mountain unless accompanied by someone on the local staff.


It is obviously forbidden to enter restricted areas marked as such. Note and obey posted safety signs and information.


By all means, avoid climbing on telescopes, structures, domes or any other potentially dangerous places. If this is absolutely necessary for your work or to satisfy reasonable and normal curiosity, ask someone on the technical crew to go with you and follow instructions.

Please note that the louvers in the Magellan domes are operated remotely and can be set in motion during the day as well as the night at any time. Keep clear of them and under no circumstance introduce an arm or any part of the body in the space between them.

When walking outside domes at night, always carry a flashlight. Please pay attention to three steps on the catwalk outside the magellan control rooms. A small red light indicates these, but coming out of a well lit room, you may not see the light.

Always walk on the left side of the road (but please drive on the right side!)

It is ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN to climb on the outer parts of domes as well as the upper ends of telescopes. Ridiculous as it may sound, we have had visitors who have tried to climb on the outside of frozen domes in order to remove ice or snow!

Unless you are required to be part of the operation of mounting or dismounting an instrument or parts of instruments or telescopes, you should observe such actions carried out by the technical crew from a safe distance. This is for your own safety, that of others and for the integrity of instruments and components.

If you enter a place marked as "Hard Hat" area or where other people are using this protection, you are required to procure the same protection for yourself. This also applies to eye protection.

Always use eye and limb protection when handling potentially dangerous instruments, elements or cryogens.

Using cryogenic elements can be dangerous if you are not trained.

One cause of accidents is being trapped by machinery or mechanisms. Please keep away from moving machines (moving scaffolds, platforms, cherry pickers, backhoes, graders, loaders, etc.) and use extreme care when working with or near such devices.

On a somewhat different note, remember that good health is necessary in order to carry out your work. Don't try to be heroic. Make use of our local clinic and if required to go to La Serena, don't dismiss it.

3. Reporting an accident

A timely and accurate report of an accident can be very helpful. Please keep in mind that language can be a serious barrier in a stressful situation. Therefore try to be accurate and remain calm when reporting an accident.

Simple rules:

  • Try to find someone who speaks English if your Spanish is not good. The report should go first to the person in charge of the mountain. This person is, from Mondays to Thursdays, Mr. MARCELO RODRIGUEZ (Extension 660). The Paramedic is the next person who should be informed (Extension 672). In any event, someone on the technical crew will know exactly who should be informed.


  • Try to avoid driving and prefer the phone system. It might take a minute or two to locate someone but it will certainly take more time to find someone by driving. Moreover, you will increase the chances of further accidents.


  • Do not move a person who has suffered an accident or injury without help from other people. There will almost certainly be a paramedic or someone with specific training on the mountain.


  • If you are unable to locate anyone who speaks English, call the kitchen (Extension 639) and state slowly and clearly who you are, where you are (give your extension if you know it, if you can) and that an accident has occurred. The word for Accident in Spanish is ACCIDENTE, so it is certain that you will be understood. There is a radio in the kitchen and they will try to locate someone to help you.


  • If there is an accident which requires anything more than basic local assistance, the person(s) involved will be transported to La Serena where we have an agreement with one of the major clinics. If required, an ambulance will drive up from La Serena to meet our vehicle going down.


For night time emergencies or health related problems in general, call the paramedic at 672 or 911


  • For technical emergencies, please dial 900.
Some useful mountain numbers:
Location Number English
Control room Baade telescope 635 Yes
Control room Clay telescope 637 Yes
Control room du Pont telescope 609 Yes
Kitchen 639 No
Paramedic 672 or 911 No
Technical emergencies 900 Yes