Workers union declares cease of work at Hanford tank farms to en - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Workers union declares cease of work at Hanford tank farms to ensure employee safety

Posted: Updated:

RICHLAND, WA. -- Work at the Hanford tank farms stopped cold Monday.

Workers are demanding increased safety measures before they go back out to work. 

It's an unprecedented move by the Hanford Metal Trades Council, the union representing Hanford workers. They announced Monday morning that work on the Hanford tank farms will not continue another minute, unless their workers are given mandatory supplied air. 

On June 20th, HAMTC took a tough stance, demanding change after an estimated 60 workers over several months reported possible exposure to toxic radioactive vapors. July 7th, Washington River Protection Solutions responded to that letter, conceding some changes, but not one in particular, mandatory supplied air when on the tank farms.

"And that's absolutely unacceptable to HAMTC," Dave Manlaa, President of HAMTC said. "I'm not backing off. The only solution to my stop work is to put people in supplied air in any tank farm including the double shell tanks."

Monday, workers were asked to go on the tank farms without supplied air. That was enough for Dave. He made the unprecedented call for an overall standing stop work order.

"They could help mitigate that problem by simply doing what I asked and they simply refused," Manlaa said. "And I'm not backing off. We'll do the work, but I simply demand they don't kill them while they're doing it."

WRPS issued this response late Monday afternoon saying in part; "Stopping work is not only a right, it is the responsibility of all WRPS workers who feel there is a safety issue. We are honoring the HAMTC stop work order issued Monday... And we are following our procedure for working with HAMTC to resolve this stop work issue." 

WRPS went on to say they are looking forward to a visit from the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Safety and Health on July 25th to review their safety protocols. 

Meanwhile, HAMTC says not one more minute of work will happen on the tank farms until supplied air is mandatory. 

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UPDATE:

RICHLAND, WA - 

Mark Lindholm, President & Project Manager of Washington River Protection Solutions has responded to HAMTC's stop work order. Here's what he had to say on the subject:

"Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) takes worker safety very seriously. 

"We are committed to transparency related to the issues raised by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council (HAMTC) on chemical vapors in Hanford’s tank farms.  In addition to sampling data, frequently asked questions and background information, a detailed response to the safety issues raised by HAMTC can be found in WRPS’ response letter posted on July 7, 2016, on the WRPS Vapor website, www.hanfordvapors.com

"Stopping work is not only a right, it is the responsibility of all WRPS workers who feel there is a safety issue. We are honoring the HAMTC Stop Work order issued today regarding use of supplied-air respiratory protection within any tank farm boundary, and we are following our procedure for working with HAMTC to resolve this Stop Work issue.  (See attachment for the Hanford Site Stop Work Procedure [DOE-0343, Rev. 3], as posted on the www.hanfordvapors.com website.)

"While we are continuing our evaluation of the feasibility of implementing the HAMTC “demand” relating to supplied air use, we believe our current activities and future actions are aligned with and will address concerns related to worker safety.

"As part of our continuing commitment to worker safety and transparency, we are looking forward to the visit on July 25 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) / National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) to provide us with their views regarding worker safety and health at Hanford’s tank farms.

"We are committed to maintaining a strong working partnership with HAMTC.  Our hope is that, together with HAMTC, we can continue to improve our safety performance well beyond existing industry and regulatory standards.

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RICHLAND, WA - Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council (HAMTC) has declared a standing stop work at Hanford tank farms, due to WRPS's "absolute failure" to ensure that "all work inside the perimeter fences of any tank farm shall be performed while wearing mandatory supplied air".

The president of HAMTC sent a letter to the president and project manager of the Washington River Protection Solutions regarding Hanford's failure to contain odors and noxious chemical vapors emanating from the tank farms, according to the reports of multiple Hanford employees. These odors have the serious potential to cause both short-term and long-term adverse health effects. 

The following are steps to follow in order to ensure the heath and safety of the Hanford tank workers:

1. All work activities which causes, or may potentially cause, the emission of chemical vapors including intrusive, sluicing, retrieval, transfers, pumping, sampling, mixing, breaching, venting, vessel dump, air abatement, leaks, spills, airlift circulation, caustic additions, invasive, disturbing, etc. shall be performed on backshifts and weekends.

2. During all work activities as described in Number 1 above, a vapor control zone shall be established no less than 200 feet away from the perimeter fence line of the applicable tank farm in which the above described work is occurring.

3. All work inside the established vapor control zone shall be performed while wearing mandatory supplied air.

4. All roads and access points shall effectively be barricaded to prevent/restrict unauthorized entry into the vapor control zone and shall be strictly monitored and enforced.

5. All work inside the perimeter fences of any tank farm shall be performed while wearing mandatory supplied air.

6. All SCBA bottles shall be limited to 30-minute cylinders. All use of the 60-minute cylinders shall immediately be discontinued and removed from service. In addition, more emphasis should be placed on acquiring alternative supplied air respirators such as re-breathers, lighter cylinders, and more advanced equipment and ergonomically designed harnesses such as the MSA G-1 system.

7. Ensure effective communication is provided to all the site contractors prior to any activities referenced in number 1 above.

More information regarding HAMTC's involvement in this matter will be added to this story as it is received.

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