DOE Withholds $3 Million from Contractor for Safety Violations

The Oct. 7 letter from the Office of Health, Safety and Security's acting enforcement chief to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC said SRNS "had extensive deficiencies" in hazard assessment and its electrical safety program.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued a Preliminary Notice of Violation to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC on Oct. 7 for four alleged Severity Level 1 violations and one Severity Level II violation of DOE safety and health regulations. DOE has withheld $3.08 million in contract fees. An Oct. 7 letter from the Office of Health, Safety and Security's acting enforcement chief, John S. Boulden III, to SRNS President/CEO Garry W. Flowers said SRNS "had extensive deficiencies" in hazard assessment and its electrical safety program.

The two events were an Aug. 18, 2009, nitric acid spill that injured three workers and a Sept. 23, 2009, arc flash in which an electrician suffered first-, second-, and third-degree burns to his arms and face. The arc flash happened when a metal tool fell inside the breaker cabinet while electricians and a supervisor were troubleshooting an energized 480v circuit breaker, according to the PNOV.

The letter says DOE reinstated $1 million of the original $4.08 million fee reduction because SNRS made corrective actions and "measurable progress" in its associated safety programs.

Emergency eyewash equipment wasn't available as closely as it should have been when workers were draining a nitric acid line and spilled one quart of the acid, nor was the path to the emergency equipment unobstructed, the PNOV states. It says SRNS did not issue an energized electrical work permit for the task where the arc flash occurred, did not ensure workers used the flash protection/hazard boundary and incident energy information contained on the flash hazard label on the circuit breaker cabinet door, did not ensure workers remained outside the minimum approach distance to live electrical components, and did not conduct a job briefing to explain the hazards to the workers. Hazard assessment was not properly done, so the workers were not wearing appropriate PPE to work on the breaker with a calculated arc flash hazard rating of 87.6 cal/cm2; the PNOV says a contributing factor was that SNRS Manual 18Q, Safe Electrical Practices and Procedure Manual, does not provide clear guidance for controlling electrical hazards of energized equipment above 40 cals/cm2.

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