The Hanford vitrification plant employees reported positive views of the project's nuclear safety and quality culture in a new survey, according to Bechtel National.
It sent a lengthy memo to employees Thursday evening outlining the results of a survey by an independent review team assembled to fulfill Department of Energy commitments to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
The employee survey is one source of information the Independent Safety and Quality Culture Assessment Team is using. It also announced earlier that it planned interviews with employees and a review of other project information, including other recent evaluations by external experts.
The independent review was planned after a defense board investigation concluded in June that the technical safety culture at the plant was in need of "prompt, major improvement."
However, the survey found that the average overall score for nonmanual responses was 4.04 out of 5, and the overall average score for construction employees was 3.56.
The report said both scores are considered high, said Bechtel project director Frank Russo in the employee message. The report was not available to the Herald by Thursday evening.
About 80 percent of the work force answered the survey, which had questions developed by the independent review team.
Construction employees "do not hesitate to raise safety concerns in order to get them resolved, and individuals believe that their co-workers act in the same manner," according to a quote from the report included in the employee memo.
"As is indicative of a strong safety culture at the site, individuals feel very comfortable raising safety concerns to their immediate supervisor," the report was quoted as saying.
Overall, construction workers believe the vitrification plant has a strong safety culture and is a safe place to work compared to places they had worked before, it said.
Nonmanual employees do not hesitate to raise safety concerns in order to get them resolved and believe that identifying such issues is a routine part of their job, according to a quote from the report. As a whole they believe that their work group and management is committed to safety and quality, it said.
The most significant issue identified in the survey by construction and nonconstruction workers is the amount of time it takes to resolve issues at the vitrification plant, Russo said in the employee message. He asked employees to provide more information on this concern so it can be addressed.
Unlike nuclear safety culture reviews last year, issues with the Employee Concerns Program and the Project Issues Evaluation Reporting System were not raised in the current employee survey, according to the employee message.
Nonmanual employees did report being frustrated by negative media accounts of the project's safety culture in the last year, the message said.
Two high-ranking contractor employees on the project filed legal complaints, claiming they were discriminated against for raising issues about safety of the plant once it begins treating radioactive waste. The defense board also has raised concerns.
"I share the same kind of frustration that many of you have expressed in the survey over the negative media coverage that we have received," Russo said in the message.
Bechtel will take action to address issues identified in the survey question responses and written comments, Russo said.