OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s (OREM) cleanup contractor URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR) was among 11 winners internationally of the Environmental Health & Safety Innovation Awards. 

   UCOR was the public sector category winner. The award highlights the company’s use of sensors, drones, information technology, wearables, and occupational health and safety software in cleanup projects at the East Tennessee Technology Park, Y-12 National Security Complex, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC’s Gary Kephart and Bill Evans accept the Innovation Award from the event hosts.
URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC’s Gary Kephart and Bill Evans, far left, accept the Innovation Award from the event hosts.

   “They’ve done a tremendous job fostering a culture where employees are encouraged to approach and perform sensitive and complex projects in new and creative ways,” said Jay Mullis, OREM acting manager. “Our mission is reaping the benefits as we continue making progress while helping keep the workforce safe.” 

   The company recently used a drone for the first time to inspect a 250-foot stack at ORNL. The 65-year-old brick structure is critical to the laboratory’s gaseous waste system, requiring periodic visual inspections due to its age.  

   Following commands from its ground-based operator, the camera-mounted drone circled around the stack, searching for flaws that could threaten its structural integrity and safety. Using the drone reduced risk by eliminating the need for workers to climb the stack and establish work platforms high in the air.

   “Health and safety are foundations of our business approach, and we are honored to receive an award that recognizes the innovations used to ensure our employees remain healthy and injury-free,” UCOR President and Project Manager Ken Rueter said. “This award belongs to our workers, who drive the implementation of advanced technologies across our site. Our employees constantly evaluate how we do our work and look for ways to do the job better and with less risk to themselves and their coworkers.”

   An independent judging panel selected winners based on key parameters of their projects and business results.

   More than 200 delegates shared best practices and technologies to improve health and safety at the event in Houston, Texas.