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UNINFORMED CONSENT, Seattle, WA. – A report released internally in August of 2003 and published by Fluor Hanford, a quality assurance group acknowledged the contractor’s inadequacy to educate workers about possible beryllium exposures and the successful implementation of a beryllium disease prevention program.
In 2000, a ‘beryllium awareness’ agreement was signed by members of the Office of River Protection, Ch2M Hill, PNNL, Hanford Environmental Health Foundation (HEHF), Bechtel, and Fluor Hanford.
All work for Hanford. Fluor, Ch2M Hill and the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation have found themselves clenched under significant scrutiny now that the Department of Energy has ordered an investigation of their employee relation practices during the cleanup process. The announcement was made last Tuesday that fraud, supervisory malfunction and falsification of medical records may have occurred at the famous nuclear site.
Fluor Hanford, the largest contractor active at the nuclear site in Richland, WA, was previously involved with an oversight group known as the Hanford Joint Council active for eight years until February 2003. The two groups agreed to implement a ‘Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program,’ to educate and safeguard the workers from future exposures to harmful substances at the Hanford site, including beryllium. According to the Hanford Joint Council’s final report, the group became inactive due to financial pressures and confidentiality issues.
These internal documents, detail commitments the contractors had agreed to partake. They read as follows:
- Develop a beryllium program communication plan
- Develop a beryllium program-training plan
- Develop and/or update beryllium awareness, beryllium assigned worker, and manager training modules.
- Update the Site CBDPP (Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program)
- Update the Hanford Site Beryllium-Suspect Facilities List, and
- Develop a Policy for preventing additional beryllium exposures.
The committee findings stunned personnel.
The Communication Plan did not meet the Hanford Joint Council recommendations, nor was it progressing to a level where workers would be aware of such a program.
The current process for labeling beryllium-contaminated buildings was not clearly defined nor was it documented. In addition, the recommended training program was non-existent. This could result in unsuspecting workers having potential exposures to beryllium and never know about it. The exposure would then likely be misdiagnosed.
The assessment group reports that some progress has been made and suggested that an additional final evaluation be made 3 to 4 months from the August release. However, since the oversight group has been disbanded there is no vehicle for implementing the plan and therefore no protocol for safety.
For access to the full internal document please visit:
Submitted by Andrea Jensen, Uninformed Consent Investigative Reporter
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