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Government Accountability Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 2, 2006
2:20 PM

CONTACT: Government Accountability Project
Richard Miller, Senior Policy Analyst
Phone: 413-531-5787
Email: rickudana@aol.com
Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.408.0034, ext. 137
Email: dylanb@whistleblower.org

 
GAP Applauds DOE Worker Health & Safety Rule
 

WASHINGTON - February 2 - The Department of Energy (DOE) has just completed a rule that, for the first time in 65 years, will make worker health and safety requirements enforceable at DOE nuclear and non-nuclear facilities, and using new authority granted by Congress, will be able to increase contractor accountability through fines of up to $70,000 per day per violation.

This long overdue rule was required to be issued in December 2003, under a provision inserted in the FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act by Senators Jim Bunning (R-Ky) and Ted Kennedy (D-Ma). The law required DOE to issue industrial and construction safety rules which mirrored DOE’s existing administrative safety orders, and to make safety rule violations by its contractors subject to fines and enforcement orders. DOE will enforce this rule through its Office of Enforcement within the Office of Environment, Safety and Health, because DOE nuclear facilities are exempt from NRC or OSHA oversight.

After issuing two previous rules that were riddled with loopholes and unlawful exemptions in 2003 and 2005, DOE, under the leadership of new Assistant Secretary John Shaw, developed a health and safety regulation which tracks the congressional direction. Oversight by Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Bunning, members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee such as John Dingell (D-Mi) and Ted Strickland (D-Oh), and the Senate Armed Services Committee, coupled with watchful and persistent oversight by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, helped secure a final rule that is protective of worker safety.

In some areas, the rule provides protections greater than OSHA. For example, DOE’s beryllium provisions are ten-fold more protective than OSHA’s 50-year old standard, and will be enforceable for the first time under this rule. Likewise, workers will have the right to stop or refuse unsafe work, and to accompany enforcement inspectors when they tour nuclear facilities. Contractors will have one year to bring their facilities into compliance, at which point DOE can bring enforcement actions.

“We commend Assistant Secretary Shaw for making this rule a priority, as it will be there to protect workers and hold contractors accountable for the long term,” commented Richard Miller, senior policy analyst at GAP. “Mr. Shaw overcame a number of hurdles to bring this rule to fruition, and nuclear workers are the beneficiaries.”

“The DOE’s next challenge is to ensure there are sufficient resources in the President’s budget request for FY 07 to hire inspectors and enforce the safety rule,” added Miller.

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