December 1999


Integrated Safety Management workshop

For Integrated Safety Management to succeed, workers must be involved

Until the work force becomes directly involved in Integrated Safety Management, it won’t happen.

That was the overriding theme to last month’s national Integrated Safety Management workshop, held in Knoxville and hosted by DOE’s Oak Ridge contractors, including ORNL. Several of the speakers emphasized a similar mantra: Making safety part of the job, at the activity level, is the key to attaining the goal of ISM.

The ISM Workshop was marked by a sizable attendance by labor, including the Plant and Equipment Division's David White (right), talking with P&E's Jerry L. Foster of the Technical Training department.
Managers and workers from throughout the DOE complex convened in Knoxville for the workshop, one of a series that came at a strategic point in time: ISMS is targeted to be implemented in the workplace by September 2000, which is not much time to institute a culture change in how on-the-job safety is perceived and accomplished.

The timing of the workshop might have been the reason that turnout for the conference exceeded estimates, says organizer Dennie Parzyck of ORNL. Around 300 were expected to come. The workshop actually drew nearly double that.

Most significantly, Parzyck pointed out that labor was represented by as many as 150 attendees. Speakers from labor included John Meese, president of the AFL-CIO’s Metal Trades Department, and Atomic Trades and Labor Council President Carl Scarbrough.

For labor and management alike, full ISM implementation in the workplace is a goal not yet realized. “We have a long way to go,” said ORO Manager Leah Dever, who said that recent setbacks, including safety and security issues at Y-12, “have made us more determined to make ISM a reality.”

Another DOE manager, Beverly Cook, of the Idaho Operations Office, described how her early training as a hot-cell operator, where it was “easy to get in an unrecoverable situation,” taught her the value of careful job planning, hazard evaluation, involvement of everyone in development of procedures and hardware, execution of the job and of feedback.

Conferring at a luncheon head table were the DNFSB's Joe DiNunno, ORNL's Dennie Parzyck, UT-Battelle's Bill Madia and Office of Science's Milt Johnson.
“It sounded a lot like ISM,” she said. “It’s expensive; can we afford it? A well-planned job is a cost savings to everyone. We can’t afford not to do it.”

Joe DiNunno, a member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, told the gathering that effective implementation of ISM remains the great challenge. “Paper won’t do it,” he said. “We’ve been good at devising programs that sound real good.”

The keys to successful implementation, he said, are support from upper and middle management levels and worker levels alike. But he warned: “Any serious incident could nullify our gains. What happens in one place affects attitudes toward the whole DOE complex.”

The Office of Science’s associate director for Laboratory Operations and ES&H, Milt Johnson, recalled an incident in his career that drilled, literally, the importance of worker involvement at the earliest stages. After an electrician drilled into a pipe that was to have carried radioactive tritium (but luckily hadn’t), stunned managers, who had believed they were running a very tight and careful operation, went to workers to find out how it could have happened.

“They told us they were under pressure to get the job done,” he said. “We told them, ‘you have the right to protect yourself and us.’

“If we don’t make ISM a part of how we think, it’ll be just another thing that passed on.”

ORNL’s role in the workshop was prominent. Parzyck and staff members involved in the Lab’s ISMS implementation efforts handled many of the organizational facets of the workshop. The Lab’s Jeff Hill and David Barncord, who are the ATLC reps in the Office of Safety and Health Protection, participated in a breakout session, moderated by ORNL’s ATLC Vice President Ed Mee, on identifying and controlling hazards in an R&D workplace.

The AFL-CIO’s Meese described how worker involvement in a European shipyard—one of the most hazardous types of workplaces there is—practically eradicated accidents. The incentive-based program depended on close participation by the unions.

“Why involve the union? Because employees feel more comfortable talking to their union reps,” Meese said.

“Union isn’t a dirty word. If we don’t work with the employees, it ain’t gonna happen.”

Meese said the team-based system reduced accidents by 75 percent and pared lost-workday cases down to one-eighth the previous rate. Housekeeping figured highly in the success. Because many job accidents were attributed to slip, slide and fall injuries, a cleanup campaign aimed at eliminating clutter in turn eliminated those types of accidents.

“The shipyards are immaculate,” Meese said.

Bill Madia, who will assume the directorship of ORNL on April 1, described the concept of “simultaneous excellence” to a lunch crowd. Simply put, it means that government, private and academic labs share a common core philosophy for success: a commitment to excellence across the board in science and technology, operations and ES&H, and community service.

Speaking only one week before the announcement of the permanent closing of the High Flux Beam Reactor at Brookhaven, Madia commented, “We see what happened at Brookhaven. We lost the balance of simultaneous excellence. This year it’s been counterintelligence. Science has suffered; it has impaired our ability to interact with foreign nationals.”

Madia also noted a comment by Motorola’s Bob Galvin, a familiar name around ORNL. After worrying about the length of time it was taking to drive ISM “down into the system,” Madia asked Galvin about the pace of culture change at Motorola, often considered a hallmark of success.

Galvin told him that after eight years, Motorola “was just about hitting it.”

It takes about a year to effect a culture change in a particular organization level, Madia said. “As it gets down to a particular organization, people realize they are accountable and demand support. That’s what you want.”

“Until you get a worker directly involved in the program, it won’t happen.”

Nevertheless, ORNL’s target date for completion of Phase II of ISM implementation, when the work force should be familiar with and operating under the tenets of Integrated Safety Management, is this February. The entire DOE complex is slated to be on board by next September.

However, it is workers’ acceptance, familiarity and use of ISM practices, not the date, that’s really important, and the evolution of that safety culture will occur throughout the years.

ORNL’s Ed Mee says the job isn’t done.

“ORNL has made tremendous progress, but we still have a lot to do to get the ISM message down into the ranks.”—B.C.