Energy Northwest, Areva NP, recognized for workplace safety

By The Tri-City HeraldFebruary 7, 2014 

Energy Northwest employees work during a refueling outage in the Columbia Generating Station's generator building.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

Energy Northwest and Areva NP, both in Richland, have been given Better Workplace Awards by the Association of Washington Business.

They were among just five companies winning 2014 Better Workplace Awards. Both awards were for workplace safety.

The association called Energy Northwest's milestone of 10 million hours worked without a lost-time injury remarkable. It came during a year that Energy Northwest's nuclear power plant near Richland generated 8.4 million megawatt hours of electricity, a record for a year when the plant is refueled.

"That level of safety is nearly impossible for a large public power utility to achieve, but this Richland-based electricity provider holds itself to a higher standard," the association said in its announcement of the award.

Energy Northwest said all accidents and injuries are preventable and tells employees that no work will be done unless it can be performed safely. Near misses are reported, and workers are expected to speak up about safety issues and coach co-workers, the association said.

Areva, which manufactures fuel for nuclear power plants, set out to turn its good safety record into a great one, according to the association. It was able to drop its number of recordable accidents from 18 in 2007 to just three in 2013.

To do that, it "error-proofed" repetitive tasks, encouraged a questioning attitude and set up checks before jobs were started. To reduce injuries, equipment was modified at its 40-year-old facility. The company established and continually reinforced the need for safety shoes, work gloves and hearing protection, the association said.

Areva employees turn in about 250 cards each month flagging equipment, behavior or procedures that could be a safety problem and the company responds with immediate action, including employee coaching, according to the association.

Employees observed operating safely or making safety catches are rewarded with free lunches, cameras and iPods.

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