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Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) President and Project Manager Sean Dunagan, center, helps unfurl the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star site flag during a brief ceremony at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in late June.
Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) President and Project Manager Sean Dunagan, center, helps unfurl the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star site flag during a brief ceremony at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in late June.

EM contractors at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Savannah River Site (SRS) were recently awarded Star status for safety and health advances through the DOE’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

“This is a very significant milestone,” DOE Carlsbad Field Office Acting Manager Greg Sosson said of Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the WIPP management and operations contractor. “I’m looking forward to the continued success at WIPP that is enabled by the behaviors needed to attain this recognition.”

Working through cooperative efforts among labor, management, and government at DOE contractor sites, the VPP promotes improved health and safety performance. The Star status is for DOE contractors whose injury rates meet the DOE standard of 50 percent below industry average, who perform mentoring and outreach activities, and exemplify management leadership, employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training.

After separate fire and radiological events in 2014, WIPP implemented a variety of safety improvements and received VPP Merit status in 2015. Last year, a DOE VPP team spoke highly of the changes that had been made, noting that it would return to WIPP in 2020 to ensure their permanence. The team visited again in January and recommended Star status for the site.

“Safety improvements that began in 2018 have matured, and Nuclear Waste Partnership has demonstrated its commitment to making those improvements permanent and earned the workers’ trust,” the team’s report states.

“We stand ready to assist you as you continue in your pursuit of excellence,” DOE Associate Under Secretary for Environment, Health, Safety and Security Matthew Moury wrote in the Star status notification letter to the WIPP contractor.

“This is an impressive accomplishment and milestone,” NWP President and Project Manager Sean Dunagan said. “I would like to thank our employees for making this achievement possible through their dedication to ensuring that safety is No. 1 at WIPP.”

The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) flag continues to fly in front of the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility, operated by Savannah River Remediation.
The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) flag continues to fly in front of the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility, operated by Savannah River Remediation.

In the announcement to Savannah River Remediation (SRR), EM’s liquid waste contractor at SRS, Moury congratulated employees ”for your pursuit of excellence in health and safety and your efforts to retain Star status in the Department of Energy’s Voluntary Protection Program.”

The DOE-VPP team completed its two-week onsite review of SRR in February.

“After reviewing our programs, talking to our personnel, and watching work being completed, the VPP team reached the conclusion that SRR should be recertified as a Star site,” said Mark Schmitz, SRR chief operating officer and deputy project manager. “Every team member takes our core value of safety to heart and contributes to that success.”

For more information on DOE’s VPP Program, click here.

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