OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
JUN 22 1990
The Honorable Norm Dicks
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Dicks:
Thank you for your letter of May 10, addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), concerning compliance with the OSHA standards at Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities, and at the Hanford Reservation in particular.
Under Section 4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and Section 161(i)(3) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, employees of DOE government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) facilities are exempted from OSHA enforcement activity. There are 102 GOCO facilities nationwide. The Hanford Reservation consists of several GOCO facilities.
OSHA, under Secretary Dole's guidance, has offered to assist the DOE by performing a comprehensive evaluation of the DOE safety and health program for GOCOs. Secretary Watkins has accepted our offer and the evaluation is now underway. Current plans call for three teams of OSHA professionals to visit eight DOE Operations Offices and eight GOCO facilities during the months of May through August, 1990. The Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Washington, (located on the Hanford Reservation) is included among the GOCO facilities to be visited.
A report on the findings of this evaluation is expected to be available to the DOE by October 1990. The report will identify strengths and weaknesses in the DOE safety and health program for GOGO facilities and offer recommendations to Secretary Watkins for enhancing the program. The systemic issues that affect the DOE's safety and health program for compliance with OSHA's standards at GOCOs will be addressed in the report. The report, however, will not address specific compliance problems (violations of OSHA standards) at individual GOCO sites, because OSHA is not conducting traditional inspections at the sites.
We are convinced that Secretary Watkins is fully committed to improving safety and health conditions at all GOCO facilities. OSHA, as well, is committed to providing as much assistance as possible to Secretary Watkins in this effort. This cooperative effort, we are sure, will be successful.
We appreciate your interest and concern in bringing this matter to our attention.
Gerard F. Scannell
OFAP:Baxter:vw:6/07/90-CCU:#C00823 DUE DATE: 5/29/90 cc: Nardone/Plummer/Clark-DCP:807/Douglass/CCU OFAP File/Subject File
May 10, 1990
Mr. Gerard F. Scannell
for Occupational Safety & Health
United States Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Mr. Secretary:
As the attached letter to Energy Secretary Watkins states, I am very concerned about what I understand is an alarming number of OSHA violations at Department of Energy Nuclear Facilities. While I have been impressed with the Department's commitment to radioactive waste handling issues, I am disturbed if there is a resulting decline in the commitment to worker safety and health.
I would appreciate your personal attention to this situation, would ask you to review and report to me on the OSHA compliance problems at DOE nuclear facilities -- and at the Hanford Reservation in particular.
With best wishes,
Member of Congress
May 10, 1990
Admiral James D. Watkins, Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are approaching the mark-up of the FY 1991 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill, and I wanted to take this opportunity to commend you and your Department for the dramatically-increased level of commitment to addressing the high-level nuclear waste cleanup problems at the Hanford Reservation and at other DOE Nuclear Facilities. We are moving forward to appropriating funds in FY 1991 that will maintain the federal commitment to the tri-party agreement at Hanford.
At the same time, however, I have been receiving disturbing reports about another serious safety issue at Hanford and at other DOE facilities -- the issue of compliance with Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations. I have learned of an enormous number of OSHA violations that has accumulated, many of which pose great risks to worker health and safety at Hanford and other DOE installations.
I would ask you at this time to review your Department's efforts to assure compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. From the reports I have received, I am concerned that the dramatic increase in DOE's level of effort on radioactive waste handling has resulted in a diminished concern for routine and essential employee safeguards. Perhaps what is needed at this time is a reaffirmation of the Department's commitment to abiding by OSHA regulations, in order to address what I believe is an alarming number of OSHA violations at these facilities.
Another problem may be an insufficient number of OSHA inspectors with adequate security clearances to survey conditions (and improvements made) in classified areas. If this is the case, I believe we must proceed expeditiously to assign more personnel to problem areas. I encountered this problem a year ago when workers engaged in classified Air Force work at the Boeing Company facilities in Auburn, Washington complained about health problems. After I intervened to bring the problem to the attention of top company officials and the OSHA Regional Office, additional inspectors with security classifications were ultimately assigned to problem areas. In addition, we achieved greater awareness and cooperation from the company on the need for OSHA compliance. If similar attention is necessary for the Hanford Reservation or other installations, I believe we must bring the matter to the attention of the Department of Labor. While I understand that there are problems with allowing OSHA inspectors the freedom to survey highly-secure installations, we cannot compromise the safety and health of workers.
By copy of this letter, I am asking the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health to review the OSHA compliance of DOE nuclear facilities.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your attention to this important worker safety issue.
Member of Congress
cc: Mr. Gerard F. Scannell Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety & Health United States Department of Labor