Congress Examines Hanford Safety Culture & Whistleblower Retalia - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Congress Examines Hanford Safety Culture & Whistleblower Retaliation

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A congressional committee met Tuesday to take a closer look at the concerns of Hanford whistleblowers. A congressional committee met Tuesday to take a closer look at the concerns of Hanford whistleblowers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A congressional committee met Tuesday to take a closer look at the concerns of Hanford whistleblowers.

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing to look into the safety culture at the Waste Treatment Plant and recent reports of whistleblower retaliation by the Department of Energy and its contractors.

Senators questioned representatives from DOE and subcontractors Bechtel and URS whether the whistleblowers are protected from retaliation.

DOE's Office of Health Safety and Security shared they completed safety culture reviews at the vit plant and found workers thought safety is a priority, but were reluctant to raise concerns.

DOE explained the workers' right to raise concerns is protected by law and management attention should be put on improving safety culture.

"Significant management attention is needed to improve safety culture at WTP. We found that while management espoused support for healthy nuclear safety culture, they did not have a full appreciation of the current culture or nature and level of effort needed to foster a healthy safety culture," said Bill Eckroade, DOE Office of Health Safety and Security.

Subcontractors told the committee, whistleblowers were not fired for raising safety concerns and they will protect employees when they come forward with concerns.

DOE says they will conduct their third review of the safety culture at the Waste Treatment Plant this spring.

After the hearing, URS Corporation provided the following statement regarding the Company's testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight:

"URS encourages its employees to raise concerns about safety, which is the Company's highest priority, and we are methodical in addressing the concerns they identify.   We are confident in the policies and procedures we have in place to encourage employees to raise safety concerns—and to protect them against retaliation when they do.  We have zero tolerance for retaliation against whistleblowers."

"While URS fully supports Ms. Busche's and Dr. Tamosaitis' right to express their views, we strongly disagree with their assertions.  Ms. Busche's employment was terminated for cause due to conduct and behavior issues unrelated to the safety concerns she raised.  We also disagree that there was any retaliation by URS against Dr. Tamosaitis."

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