DOE to investigate past Hanford medical protection

The Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement plans to investigate allegations that Hanford workers were put at risk because of a defective electronic medical record system.

It also has notified Computer Sciences Corp., the owner of Hanford’s former occupational medicine services provider, that it is considering enforcement action for retaliation against two former workers who raised the concerns.

Computer Sciences Corp. declined to comment after DOE made its plans public Friday afternoon.

In August 2012, two employees of Computer Sciences Corp. reported that the medical record system at AdvanceMed Hanford, then the occupational medicine contractor, was not accurately tracking medical restrictions, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

It created the potential for workers to be exposed to beryllium despite medical restrictions that should have protected them, according to OSHA. Beryllium can cause an incurable lung disease in people who breathe in fine particles of the metal if they have a genetic, allergy-like sensitivity to it.

If a blood test indicates that a Hanford worker has had an abnormal immune system reaction to beryllium, they are restricted from working in certain areas to prevent further exposure that could increase their risk of developing chronic beryllium disease.

After an inspection by the Department of Energy into the concerns of the two employees, they were laid off, OSHA said. OSHA did not name them, but said they were information technology specialists working on the software.

In late 2014, OSHA ordered Computer Sciences Corp. to pay back wages of $186,000 to the two former employees after finding the company was in violation of whistleblower laws.

Computer Sciences Corp. disagreed with the OSHA finding and appealed.

DOE’s Office of Enforcement said in a letter sent this week to Computer Sciences Corp. that it considered the OSHA determination evidence of whistleblower violations.

Computer Sciences Corp. held the Hanford contract for occupational medicine services from 2004 through September 2012. HPM Corp. then was awarded the contract, retaining Computer Sciences Corp. as a subcontractor.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews