The presidents of two EM cleanup contractors have each won a national award for their commitment to safety.
John Eschenberg, president and CEO of Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), and Phil Breidenbach, president and project manager of Savannah River Remediation (SRR), are two of eight national leaders to receive the National Safety Council’s 2021 CEOs Who “Get It” award, given to leaders who go above and beyond to protect employees on and off the job.
“Safety depends on leaders who understand and support it from the top down, ensuring every major business decision is made with safety in mind. That is the definition of a CEO who gets it,” according to the award announcement. The honorees are recognized in the January edition of Safety+Health magazine.
“The Department of Energy has a very high standard for safety and a strong safety culture at the Hanford Site,” said Brian Vance, manager of EM's Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office. “John has embraced the importance of safety in his leadership of the tank farms team.”
Each year, the council selects CEOs from national and international organizations who have demonstrated a commitment to safety in four key areas: leadership and employee engagement, safety management solutions, risk reduction, and performance measurement. The council is a mission-based organization that works to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing efforts on the workplace, roadway, and impairment.
“I’m extremely honored to receive this designation,” said Eschenberg, who leads a team of more than 3,000 employees at WRPS, EM’s tank operations contractor at Hanford. “I share this honor with all the WRPS employees who each day demonstrate teamwork, innovation, and safety awareness to advance the Hanford cleanup mission.”
The Safety + Health article describes how, after experiencing accidents as a construction worker early in his career, Eschenberg learned the value of proper safety protocols firsthand from the U.S. Navy’s nuclear power program.
“It was there I developed a full understanding of the rigor and discipline necessary to ensure worker safety in high-hazard operating environments,” Eschenberg said. “That experience introduced me to the true meaning of safety in the workplace and raised my standards to a high level that I have worked to maintain throughout my career.”
Since assuming the tank operations contract in 2008, WRPS has earned numerous safety awards, including the Voluntary Protection Program Legacy of Stars status, which distinguishes companies that have demonstrated sustained excellence in worker safety and health. The contractor also was recently named one of America’s safest companies by EHS Today, a leading publication in the safety industry.
In the high-hazard nuclear business, you don’t get to conduct your mission unless you can do it safely, according to Breidenbach, the president and project manager of EM’s liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
“The nuclear business affects the greater good; it has a much further reach than many other industries,” Breidenbach said. “If we don’t do the work correctly, we can affect many people, large areas of the state, and the entire nuclear industry. Because the consequence can be so significant, the controls to ensure we don’t actually experience those consequences need to be so robust. That is why in our business, safety is a value. It is more than a priority because priorities change. It is a value, and it always will be.”
SRR is responsible for a 24/7 operation that manages several high-hazard nuclear facilities at SRS.
“The core value of safety always comes first,” Breidenbach added.