Environment News Service

AmeriScan: February 25, 2000

ENERGY DEPARTMENT CALLS Y-12 EXPLOSION PREVENTABLE

OAK RIDGE, Tennessee, February 25, 2000 (ENS) - In the wake of a December 1999 explosion at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy (DOE) has concluded that the accident, which injured three workers, could have been prevented if managers and workers had followed the guidelines of the agency’s Integrated Safety Management program. "This investigation shows that there were failures in the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge Operations Office and at every level of the Lockheed Martin Energy Systems management chain," said Dr. David Michaels, DOE assistant secretary for environment, safety and health. "I am especially concerned that managers and workers failed to understand the nature of the chemical hazard involved, and failed to obtain the information or expertise needed to handle the unusual or unexpected conditions they faced."

The DOE has announced a series of corrective actions to help prevent similar accidents in the future:

  • Improving communications and safety training for supervisors and workers

  • Increasing worker involvement in safety planning and their involvement in the ISM program itself

  • Revising procedures to specifically address operations such as the one that led to the explosion

  • Clarifying start-up and shut down procedures in an emergency

  • Conducting frequent, no-notice inspections by the Y-12 independent assessment team

  • Increasing management presence on the work floor to obtain first-hand feedback from workers

  • Training managers and supervisors in decision making.

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