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December 7, 2015

Issues Management at the Los Alamos Field Office

The Department of Energy is committed to operating its nuclear facilities and conducting work activities to ensure environment, safety, and health concerns are considered and addressed in the performance of its mission.  Therefore, the Department has policies requiring contractors and field offices to establish an issues management program.

We found that the Los Alamos Field Office had not implemented an effective issues management program.  Specifically, the Field Office frequently did not enter issues identified in assessments into its corrective action tracking system.  Of those issues that were entered, 81 percent were not entered within the first 90 days following receipt of the assessment report, and 59 percent of the records had incomplete, inaccurate, or invalid closure data.  Additionally, we could not determine the effectiveness of the Field Office Employee Concerns Program because of inconsistencies in documenting cases.  However, although the Field Office’s record keeping did not fully meet the Differing Professional Opinions (DPO) requirements, nothing came to our attention to indicate that the process was not generally effective in managing the three DPO submissions we identified.

The identified problems occurred because the Field Office issues management programs either lacked complete procedures or the procedures were not consistently followed.  As a result, neither we nor the Field Office could verify and validate corrective actions because of incomplete information, as well as insufficient and invalid closure data.  Additionally, inconsistent or incomplete documentation diminished the effectiveness of the Employee Concerns Program and the Differing Opinions process at the Field Office.  Thus, the issues management programs were not always effective in identifying, correcting, and preventing the recurrence of safety-related deficiencies and problems.

Topic: Management and Administration