DOE to tackle insufficient safety culture at Hanford and other DOE sites

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The Department of Energy will look at better managing its Hanford vitrification plant contract to balance the demands of cost and schedule with a strong safety culture, according to a plan released this week.

DOE laid out the plan, which goes beyond Hanford to include other DOE sites, to implement Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board‘s June recommendations on improving safety culture at the vitrification plant. The plan also looked at underlying causes that led to the defense board’s concern.

The defense board investigated the safety culture at Hanford, concluding in June 2011 that management suppressed dissent on technical issues and that there was a “chilled atmosphere adverse to safety.”

DOE’s response team for the defense board recommendations for improvement agreed that some technical staff at the Hanford vitrification plant hesitate to raise safety or technical concerns that might affect schedule or cost, according to the DOE implementation plan. They believe their managers may not support them or they find the resolution process is too difficult or too lengthy, it said.

DOE and contractor management also need more knowledge and awareness of the overall topic of safety culture, the plan said.

“They must thoroughly understand and value elements such as the Differing Professional Opinion process, the Employee Concerns Program and treatment of staff who raise issues and concerns,” the DOE plan said.

Source: The News Tribune

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