Changes Will Put Nuclear Workers, Public Health and Safety at Risk
Washington, DC—The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions strongly oppose HR 4310 House Armed Services Committee’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill—especially provisions changing the nuclear weapons worker health and safety programs.
The Metal Trades points to objections raised by Dr. Peter Winokur, Ph.D, Chairman, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, that proposed changes are based on a misunderstanding of research into work practices at nuclear laboratories.
Provisions included in the pending bill would shift the entire safety & health program to NNSA and eliminate current DOE worker health and safety standards and enforcement, substituting ineffective standards and “performance-based” oversight.
Contrary to claims that the bill would simply subject NNSA facilities to the same requirements as those under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the bill would eliminate workplace inspections and strip away protection against retaliation for raising safety and health concerns. It would eliminate any requirements for employers to record and report injuries and illnesses.
According to Dr. Peter Winokur the proposed changes to health and safety oversight at the nation’s nuclear facilities are based on a misunderstanding by the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s of the research and testimony of Dr. Shank, Co-Chair of the Committee to Review the Quality of the Management and of the Science and Engineering Research at the DOE’s National Security Laboratories. Dr. Winokur maintains that Dr. Shank focused his review on the need for laboratories to do research more efficiently and effectively, and how to improve morale at the laboratories. His committee did not review the high-hazard complex nuclear operations or any associated consequences of operations.
“[T]his testimony should not be used as the basis to argue against the need for independent oversight or eliminate transactional oversight at defense nuclear facilities,” Dr. Winokur asserted in a May 7, 2012 letter to Hon. Loretta Sanchez, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Committee on Armed Services, Dr. Winokur is opposed to the proposed switch from “transitional oversight” to “performance-based oversight”.