The Voluntary Protection Program star will be flying over Hanford's vitrification plant after the Department of Energy awarded the construction site its highest safety recognition.
That DOE's largest and most complex construction project could win the VPP star "clearly shows that safety, cost and schedule are mutually compatible," said Glenn Podonsky, DOE chief health, safety and security officer, in a statement.
This year the project has had no lost-time accidents, said Frank Russo, the Bechtel National project director.
But the VPP star award requires that projects go beyond a focus on safety statistics to develop a work culture that values safety at all levels of the organization.
The construction site had good stats, but Shirley Olinger, manager of DOE Hanford Office of River Protection, was concerned that the contractor management was not connecting with the workers on safety, said Scott Ogilvie, president of Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure, Inc.
The Bechtel National construction project improved its safety culture over the past two years to achieve star status, Olinger said.
An environment was created "where workers are empowered to be proactive, have a questioning attitude, bring fresh ideas ... thus minimizing or eliminating injuries," said laborer Jesse Briones, who was picked by his coworkers as a craft safety representative.
"The work relationship with craft workers really is one of mutual respect," Russo said.
The project earned VPP merit status in April, indicating it had good safety management systems in place. But it needed to mature before it was awarded the star status, Olinger said.
Trust and morale have improved on the site as it has embraced safety, said Miles Stauffer, the vitrification plant's field safety assurance manager.
The safety star flag will be raised at the vit plant later this summer at a celebration for workers.
About 1,500 people work at the construction site, building the $12.3 billion Waste Treatment Plant, which is scheduled to begin vitrifying radioactive waste for disposal in 2019.