Saturday, February 17, 2007


"Safety" at LANL: A statistical game, an employee nightmare, or a threat to management bonuses?

An anonymous contributor, whose credentials are unquestionable, has sent me this report on "Safety" under the Corporation. This is precisely what Nanos didn't understand as a military martinet, and will be the downfall of the corporate assembly-line mindset -- if Congress cares to know ...

--Pat, the vigilant, safety-minded Dog


The “safety” area of LANS has now become a warehouse for former Bechtel executives, who are terrified that they may lose their huge bonus fees. Their allegiance is not to LANL, but to their former corporation.

In late November 2006, the LANL site received 20 year record snowfalls and black ice was all over the lab. The result was many slips, trips, and falls sustained by LANL employees, some as serious as fractures, and many in the dreaded “recordable” category. “Recordable” injuries are a safety metric under managerial performance assessments. One former Bechtel employee, now a safety manager, demanded to know if these recordable slip and fall injuries were witnessed, because he wanted “independent corroboration” that they actually occurred at LANL. His attitude seems to be that LANL employees are getting injured just to hurt his safety statistics. We all know how much fun a fracture is …

This Bechtel corporate focus on ”the numbers,” rather than trying to improve real safety at the site, has succeeded in intimidating many employees from seeking medical attention at Occupational Medicine when they are injured. Only those injured seriously enough that they can’t drag themselves off site are reporting their injuries. Managers are now held accountable if their employees get recordable injuries, and the injured employees are now too often the subject of not sympathetic, but punitive attention, for having sustained a serious injury.


Interesting post... Another of the rumors is that the LANS/BECHTEL managers wracked up big bonuses for their instant and worthless reorganization of the lab, creating all their own problems by cutting off funding streams, creating worthless and redundant groups, etc. They received their bonuses after slaving for 6 whole months over the mangled organizational and funding mess they themselves instantly created in June 2006.

But there's NO money for anything so we're constantly told. So what size bonuses did they get and how far down the food chain did the bonuses go? Group Leader?
"I see nothing, I hear nothing, I say nothing."
-- The new LANL/Bechtel model.

Way to go, NNSA! You've really improved the security and safety at this place.
I retired in 2005, and have not kept in touch since then, since I immediately moved out of state. What a relief it was to be gone!

I recently heard about this blog and thought I'd do some quick catching up, and wow, I can't believe how much worse conditions there sound now. I guess LANS has turned out to be even worse than predicted on the old LANL, The Real Story blog. I imagine morale, which was generally pretty bad when I left is even worse now (in spite of what I hear Mike Anastasio told the Congressional Committee last month).

Good luck, LANL, you are going to need it.
I've heard (from somebody who works in the safety group) that this Bechtel corporate focus on ”the numbers" is actually an excersize of Bechtel cooking of the books regarding safety incident reporting. Recall, it is written in the contract that part of LANS's award fee depends on them reducing the incidence of reportable injuries by 30%.

Is anybody surprised that LANS is numerically making that 30% reduction happen? I'm not.
Morale is worse than ever....all you hear people taking about is "If only I can last another X years. We now have a workforce that is counting the days to retirement. Beyond that no one cares any more......
Everywhere I go I see depressed people. People who are talking about how crappy things are at work... People who do not get management support anymore... ETC. The focus at work is not on worker safety. I know for a fact that criticality safety infractions in PF-4 happen ALL OF THE TIME and are not reported because the people feel they will be retaliated against. People are just trying to survive and do the best job they can; however, the workers are preoccupied with whether or not they'll have a job in 6 months! Dr. Anastasio was not quite correct when he spoke on behalf of lab workers saying that morale has improved here. Nothing can be further than the truth!!!!

Of course Anastasio lied and HAD to tell Congress how much happier we are and how much better things are. A total LIE. We're still trying to recover from the LANS instant reorganization from June 1. Aside from collecting their bonuses, name ONE improvement LANS has brought to LANL?

I'll give you a hint: ZERO
I can guarantee you there are no bonuses making it down to the group leader level. There isn't even any communication making it down that far.
Well, I'd say that people up here on The Hill really ARE paranoid, but that doesn't mean that they're not being beaten up more and more regularly, by Congress, by NNSA, by DOE, and by the press. As Herman Kahn once said, "A paranoid individual can enter a room full of people and find the one person there who's out to get him. Of course, if no one there is actually out to get him, a true paranoid will still find someone."

LANL is by now packed with paranoid people, and the number is growing daily.
and just because we ARE paranoid doesn't mean they AREN'T out to get us.....
A man I work with in the NISC suffers from MS: on a good day he can walk (barely) with a cane; on a bad day he has to use his wheelchair.

The sidewalk from the handicapped parking area to the building entryway is sloped and icy in the wintertime, as it is north-facing and in the shadows. F

acilities (before the LANS takeover) had promised to install a handrail down the icy sidewalk. Now there's no money to do so and he's terrified of falling.

Where did the handrail money go? No one will say, but if he falls and hurts himself, I hope he sues, and sues bigtime. LANS needs to pay some serious punitive damages.
Retired Poster 10:01 AM, be very thankful that you retired in early 2005. By doing so, you undoubtedly added many more fulfilling, stress-free years to your life.

The stress levels at LANL are running extremely high these days. I'm sure it is reducing the life spans of those who have decided to stay. Many are desperately trying to hold on "for just a few more years" in an attempt to make a bit more on their pensions. I hope they live long enough to enjoy that pension after retirement. They certainly will have earned it.

I've never seen a place were the morale is so low and the workforce has become so apathetic about their work. If I was a younger member of the LANL staff, I would consider bailing out now and looking for a better place. As bad as the last 2 years have been, signs are beginning to hint that the next few years may be much worse, as hard as that may be for the LANL staff to comprehend.
Actually, I heard that HSR-2 is sending people home with a "your OK" as opposed to taking any injury as seriously as they used to per orders from the top...
The cover ups are pretty clear. Recently, Chemistry Division had a serious plutonium uptake event which never made it into print. Also, some major rad rules were broken by the hot cells people and this too got hush-hushed. Lots of contamination cover ups happening in the land of the cowboys ...
This is how LANS approaches safety...first, hand out free candy for using the handrail in the Otowi, then, perform a "shoe Inspection" for proper foot wear during a snow storm. I think the american public would think that the $$$$$ the feds are paying them think they are getting their monies worth.
To poster 9:48 pm: ADs got $60-80K and PADs got $80-100K. Dunno about Mike.
2/17/2007 4:28 PM said, "Recently, Chemistry Division had a serious plutonium uptake event which never made it into print."

My guess is that the person who got the uptake was told by his/her boss to not seek medical attention and be quiet. It is the chemistry way after all. Please do tell - was it in C-SIC?
An unreported plutonium uptake event is grounds for a criminal investigation. If the event can be verified, we must make sure Congress is notified.
Well, we heard about the Pu uptake at LLNL. Perhaps the blog entropy is so great that no one here has time to actually get facts.
You guys are way over the top with this bantor. The "chemistry" guy with the plutonium uptake is in MST-16 and he is fine. I know him and he got a lot of great care from HSR-2. Please stop ranting about the things you do not know much about. It makes this blog look silly and diminishes the worth of reading it.
Why the fuck haven't we heard about the Pu uptake event in MST-16?
Wow, there was a PU uptake in MST-16 too? We had a complete stand-down of glovebox operations in my group because of the chemistry incident.
All I can say is that this banter really highlights the lack of communications under LANS.
The two Pu events that I know of occured in MST-16 and WCM-1. They resulted from puncture wounds. The glovebox standdwon was to review all operations for sharps and pich points. New gloves and extra gloves have been prescribed.

Hadn't heard about the Chemistry eevent, but the MST-16 event did occur in Wing 2 at CMR so that may be the source of the confusion.
So, who can find out if the Pu uptake events described by 7:38am were reported as "recordable" incidents? Since the news of the incidents has been hushed up, I have a strong suspicion they did not go on the books.

And, why has management tried to bury the news of these events? Rhetorical question.
The recent Pu incidents are mentioned in the Defense Nuclear Safety Board's LANL Site Representative's weekly report found on Board's public website at

January 19, 2007

MEMORANDUM FOR: J. Kent Fortenberry, Technical Director
FROM: B. Broderick and C. H. Keilers, Jr.
SUBJECT: Los Alamos Report for Week Ending January 19, 2007

Operations: While core activities such as pit manufacturing are meeting targets, support operations and safety programs are increasingly strained to meet commitments within budget . For example: extended-hour operations at the Plutonium Facility (TA-55) are now the rule rather than the exception but are not clearly supportable by institutional services, such as emergency response ; • management has appropriately increased focus on reducing Area G transuranic waste inventory - e.g., extended- shift waste repackaging started this week in WCRR - but management has reduced focus on receiving TA-55 waste; as a result, TA-55 is accumulating waste and may need to slow down Pu-238 residue disposition, one of TA-55's most important risk reduction activities; • TA-55 is accumulating solutions that the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility may need to process before upgrading its deteriorated systems; the alternative, retention in TA-55, also has issues; • unvented drums found in Area G in October still lack a path-forward; • several nuclear facilities have shortages in system engineers; • maintenance and worker qualification databases are marginally supported; • the institutional training program is underfunded and unlikely to make substantial progress this year on correcting longstanding training issues that were a contributing cause for the LANL 2004 stand-down.

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building (CMR): CMR is an example of conditions described above. To support pit manufacturing, CMR worked extended hours this week to recover from an analysis backlog caused by infrastructure issues that impacted programmatic equipment. The CMR operational staff has been cut by 16 % since October; losses include systems engineers (now at a quarter of estimated need), work planners, radcon technicians, waste services, and maintenance crafts . On the present course, CMR may need to begin to secure some operations in response to random equipment failures within weeks or months. This run-to-failure approach for CMR has been considered before and rejected; deliberate well-planned reduction of operational footprint is preferred. LANL has recently identified a need to extend CMR lifetime notionally to 2016 ; sharply reducing facility maintenance now is inconsistent with lifetime extension (site rep weekly 12/1/06) .

Contaminated Wounds: Two events have occurred: • LANL has launched an investigation into the CMR puncture wound reported last week; it is to be completed by Feb20th; NNSA is considering the need for a federal Type B investigation, per DOE Order 225.1 A,Accident Investigations; CMR has taken actions to control the scene and to address already apparent problems. -On Wednesday (1/17), a TA-55 pit machinist was scratched and became contaminated while working in a glovebox ; the wound count is positive; TA-55 has curtailed pit manufacturing work and is reviewing operations . CMR and TA-55 are also re-examining their glovebox glove integrity programs, which have weaknesses but are a key component in several facilities (e.g., WCRR) for worker radiological safety.

Criticality Safety: On Wednesday, a TA-55 worker reported a 20 % over-mass condition on a shelf of a cart. The room was secured; the condition was evaluated and corrected per LANL procedures. LANL's review of the event found problems with postings and with operator interpretation of which had over-riding precedent: the room posting or the cart posting. Underlying these problems are weaknesses in operator training and in implementing the Criticality Safety Officer program; these are focus areas for the criticality safety program improvement efforts (site rep weekly 12/22/06).

January 12, 2007

MEMORANDUM FOR: J. Kent Fortenberry, Technical Director
FROM: B. Broderick and C. H. Keilers, Jr.
SUBJECT: Los Alamos Report for Week Ending January 12, 2007

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building (CMR): On Monday (1/8), an operator sustained a puncture wound while performing glovebox operations in CMR. This event appears to be prompting a reexamination of the hand tools used in CMR gloveboxes and the controls and PPE implemented to provide worker protection. A systematic review could enhance safety and help prevent recurrence.

Thanks, 8:21 AM.

Thanks 8:21 am, this is more than my group was told from my line management. I don't think keeping the details about incidents like this from the workers is a good way to promote safety and self-reporting. But hell, what do I know I am not a manager.
"The CMR operational staff has been cut by 16 % since October; losses include systems engineers (now at a quarter of estimated need), work planners, radcon technicians, waste services, and maintenance crafts."

Were these LANL and/or JCI employess who left CMR or contractors who were dumped?
well you folks obviously have not filled out or are not living by the FABULOUS Personal Safety Sheet or whatever it was called that earned some bozo manager kudos. Some groups even made it MANDATORY to post this crap so ALL COULD SEE HOW SAFETY CONSCIOUS WE IS... It's all in the APPEARANCE....

We had a "wall-to-wall" inventory few weeks ago that didn't take into account ANY removable media of any kind. Little blue dots show the inventory was done. More APPEARANCE.....

HPI is basically flawed because it theorizes that ALL accidents are avoidable. So all managers MUST take HPI to show how safety we conscious we are.... All accidents and not avoidable and some will always happen.... But it sure looks good to show the managers took the course..... More APPEARANCE
Remember, Anonymous 2/18/2007 11:41 AM:

"Nothing succeeds like the APPEARANCE of success."

(Hmmm, could this be a new LANS/Bechtel/UC motto? To replace: "The world's greatest APPEARANCE of science in defense of the nation.")

--Pat, the Dog
I plan to pull it off the original post and selected comments and email them to our Congressional delegation. These folks need to hear daily from us about real issues caused by the for profit company and its concern only with its bonuses.

Is Bechtel running LANL or is LANS? If LANL is going to be run in bits and pieces by all the organizations making up LANS, then our Congressional delegation needs to know that LANS is not establishing the rules and regulations under which LANL is supposed to function, probably in violaton of the contract. And by not having one entity responsible for the rules and regulations, the employees are at risk of being put into the position of having multiple managers.
And for those not familiar with the DNFSB (

"The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1988. The Board's mandate under the Atomic Energy Act is to provide safety oversight of the nuclear weapons complex operated by the Department of Energy (DOE)... The constant vigilance of the Board is required to ensure that all of these activities are carried out by DOE in a manner that provides adequate protection for the public, workers, and the environment."
From the top post: "In late November 2006, the LANL site received 20 year record snowfalls and black ice was all over the lab. The result was many slips, trips, and falls sustained by LANL employees, some as serious as fractures, and many in the dreaded “recordable” category."

OK, along with this record snowfall, we did not get commensurate record snow removal from LANS. Instead we e-mails telling us to "be careful" and telling us that "inclement is coming." Oooo, I feel so much safer. What a crock!
Fact-Bechtel lost the bid to manage the Nevada Test Site and Idaho National Lab. Bechtel has employees it needs to place in a job.
Fact-All LANS employees are "at will" employees, who can be fired at any time,without cause.
Fact-LANS promise not to fire any LANS employees was for the period of one year from the start of the contract 6/1/06 to 6/1/07
Prediction-Expect a wave of LANS employee layoffs after 6/1/07
Response to 2/17/07 1:35 p.m. under "Safety" at LANL, The individual who works at the NISC has been given a sign for his car window allowing him to pull up to the back of the building and enter from the back door. We believe that he is the only person that has a defacto personal parking space right next to the building. Additionally, he can contact identified individuals to move his car to the regular handicapped spot, if that is what he desires. FY-07 funding is being sought; unfortunately, it was too late in FY-06 to get this done.
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