September 1999


ISMS: Ways to work safely together vary with the tasks

Although Oak Ridge Operations Manager Leah Dever is a newcomer to Oak Ridge, she's a longtime advocate of working safely through ISMS.
This ISMS thing is getting serious. Several managers are taking the Integrated Safety Management System so seriously, in fact, that they are folding, spindling and mutilating the carefully phrased tenets of ISMS—reshaping them to suit the needs of their own divisions.

Which is exactly what they are supposed to do. With ISMS, one size does not fit all. Safety should be tailored to each organization.

The first phase of ISMS was to gauge Lab management’s awareness of the program. The second phase takes it all a big step further: gauging the awareness of Lab staff as a whole. And by now, all ORNL staff members—from crafts workers and secretaries to senior researchers and managers—should have a fundamental understanding of what ISMS is about.

If that last sentence sent a shock through you, here is

a quick refresher. The steps toward integrated safety management revolve around five core functions.

This framework could be applied to something as simple and potentially hazardous as climbing a ladder or as complex and potentially hazardous as performing work with heavy equipment or hazardous materials.

A number of Lab staff and managers, along with representatives from DOE, held an ISMS implementation workshop in late July that was capped by presentations from three division directors and a project manager, who described how they adapted the functions of ISMS into their organizations and their particular tasks.

Engineering Technology Division Director Ted Fox unveiled his division’s “ISMS Challenge,” a game modeled after LMC’s ethics training. ETD staff considered open-ended safety situations designed to kindle thought and discussion about safety on the job (see “ISMS Challenge” below).

Computing, Networking and Information Division Director Richard Hicks described what ISMS means to a “paper cut” division. Hicks wrote and distributed a staff e-mail campaign that introduced and explained aspects of safety a dispatch at a time, then posted them ensemble on the Web.

Robotics and Process Systems Division Director Joe Herndon gave an overview of the multiorganizational ISMS planning steps his division took to prepare for its Spallation Neutron Source target test facility project, a full-scale mockup of the SNS’s mercury target. The project involved the unprecedented experience of bringing a truckload of mercury onto the RPSD site.

Dirk Van Hoesen described the ISMS program for the Gunite and Associated Tanks project. The cleanup of radioactive sludge from the old waste tanks had a special consideration because of its location across the street from the cafeteria, smack in the middle of the X-10 Site. With the potential number of sidewalk superintendents on hand, “location was a consideration. We couldn’t hide. We needed to be prepared for scrutiny.”

For that matter, all of ORNL should be similarly prepared. ISMS is not just a manager’s job. ORO Manager Leah Dever stressed to the workshop that front-line workers—both in trenches and at benches—have to be involved in safety planning. Although new to Oak Ridge, Dever said that she is an ISMS veteran and a true believer.

“Safety has always been my number one value,” she said. “This is not just another DOE program. It’s a way of living, both at work and at home. It’s a program that just makes sense.”

Safety is now everyone’s responsibility. The Lab’s top two ISMS advocates, Implementation Coordinator Dennie Parzyck and Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division Director Marv Poutsma, suggest that if you aren’t familiar with ISMS or what your safety responsibilities are—specific to the work you do—ask your supervisor or ask a co-worker.

Meeting the expectations of ISMS’s phase two isn’t just about complying with a program. “Somewhere down the road, sooner or later,” says Parzyck, “it will mean an injury that was prevented.”—B.C.

ETD's ISMS Challenge
Which is the best answer? Engineering Technology Division employees may still be talking over this one.

“You and a group of colleagues are returning from lunch at the Y-12 cafeteria. As you approach 9204-1, you notice that one of the construction workers working on the roof is not wearing a hard hat. A minute later he disappears from view. You also notice another group of the subcontractor’s workers are sitting near the entrance finishing their lunches. What should you do?”

  1. Nothing. You’re not sure hard hats are required.
  2. Mention it to one of the workers or their supervisor if he or she is there.
  3. Call the building manager and report the incident.
  4. Inform your supervisor when you return to your office.