A large group of people post for a picture
A new safety culture assistance visit team, shown here at Oak Ridge, is comprised of individuals from DOE headquarters, various DOE prime contractors, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and electric utility company Duke Energy.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and cleanup contractor UCOR recently hosted a new safety culture assistance team that will visit DOE worksites to identify strengths and any gaps to excellence.

A 21-person team of individuals from DOE headquarters, various DOE prime contractors, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and electric utility company Duke Energy conducted a series of interviews, focus groups and workplace observations to obtain insight into the safety culture at Oak Ridge.

As part of its pilot visit to a DOE worksite, the team shared its observations, including how UCOR employees felt empowered to stop work for perceived safety issues.

“UCOR has a strong safety culture, which is reflected not only in our record but in workforce perceptions measured in various surveys,” said Clint Wolfley, UCOR chief safety officer. “However, one of the keys of having a strong safety culture is knowing that maintaining that culture requires constant focus, dedication, and innovation, so we were thrilled to be the first participant in this process.”

Overhead shot of employees working in the lab
A strong safety culture helps ensure workers in Oak Ridge remain safe as they conduct challenging and complex cleanup work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

The DOE Safety Culture Improvement Panel is working to finalize the safety culture assistance visit process, which provides real-time insight into the status of an organization’s safety culture and safety conscious work environment — specifically focusing on leadership, employee and worker engagement, and organizational learning.

“I continue to be amazed by the amount of learning that took place at the individual, team and organizational level when conducting the assistance visit,” said Julie Goeckner, DOE senior advisor for safety culture. “UCOR’s participation in the pilot helped to validate that the process works.”

A second pilot visit is scheduled at another DOE site early next year, and plans are underway to support several additional requests.

For more information on safety culture assistance visits, email SCIP@hq.doe.gov.

-Contributor: Wayne McKinney