Safety Comes First

When it comes to providing for the safety of employees and visiting researchers and protecting the environment, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is one of the best.

"I don't compare the labs, but the results here are very good," said Thomas Staker, who led a team of inspectors that conducted an extensive inspection of environment, safety and health programs at Jefferson Lab in May and June. Staker is director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environment, Safety and Health Evaluations.

During a presentation of the team's findings and draft results report on July 10, Staker noted that Jefferson Lab received high marks (effective performance ratings) in 11 of 13 categories. "That's a pretty good report card," he added.

"It's a very rewarding outcome," said Lab Director Christoph Leemann. "Something became very clear in this effort and that is that the commitment to safety and the systems are in place on the work floor and have been embraced by the workers. Safety at JLab is really carried by the workers."

The seven-member inspection team reviewed four areas of the lab's operations: feedback and improvement processes, the Free-Electron Laser, the Test Lab, and facilities management and logistics. As Staker explained, the team took a "performance-based look" at these areas with an eye toward helping the lab improve its operations. What the team found were outstanding "core function" practices at the Test Lab, the Free-Electron Laser and within the Facilities Management and Logistics group. The inspection identified four findings the lab needs to address and one for the DOE Thomas Jefferson Site Office.

The "positive attributes" cited by the inspection team include:

  • Laser hazards for FEL work activities are well characterized and controlled.
  • The Test Lab has a comprehensive and proactive safety program in place for the use of acids.
  • Hazards associated with nanomaterial research at the FEL are effectively mitigated through application of appropriate engineering controls, along with development and implementation of conservative administrative controls and personal protective equipment.
  • Subcontracting Officer's Technical Representatives are very experienced, knowledgeable and effectively engaged in reviewing subcontractor performance and ensuring that Jefferson Lab requirements are met during maintenance activities.
  • The DOE Thomas Jefferson Site Office has substantially improved its staff capability and processes to provide effective oversight of environment, safety and health performance at Jefferson Lab.

Staker noted that his office has inspected eight nanotechnology facilities at other national labs and that Jefferson Lab's was "among the best." He added that the lab's Subcontracting Officer's Technical Representatives, who are part of the facilities management group, also are "among the best we've seen in the DOE complex."

"Site Office, lab management and worker attention to safety is evident in the observed, effective establishment of controls for activity level work and improvements in feedback and important processes," the inspection team draft report said.

While the draft report was overwhelmingly positive, Staker noted that "there are areas needing attention," adding that "further work needs to be done." The areas of "particular priority and emphasis" listed by the inspection team in its draft report are:

  • Evaluating and enhancing forklift safety programs in such areas as OSHA compliance, postings, operator training and assessments;
  • Continuing enhancement of the work control process;
  • Enhancing the CAS, with particular emphasis on performance-based assessments and rigorous issues-management and event-investigation processes; and
  • Establishing and implementing a well-defined infrastructure for document control and effective management and communication requirements.

The DOE Thomas Jefferson Site Office "should closely monitor TJNAF's efforts and continue to improve its systems and line management oversight of TJNAF," the draft report continued. "Many of TJNAF ISM (Integrated Safety Management) programs are relatively new or have been recently enhanced and thus warrant continued management attention to ensure they mature and are rigorously assessed and improved as operation experience is gained."

James Turi, DOE TJ Site Office manager, thanked the inspection team for "conducting a review that was thorough and comprehensive, and provided a good snapshot of the lab and the site office."

The inspection team plans to issue a final report on its inspection by mid-August. After the report is completed, the lab and site office will have 60 days to submit a corrective action plan that addresses the findings.

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Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and PAE, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit science.energy.gov.