One team, one mission.
That’s the motto Brian Stewart embraced when he became the Safety and Health Program manager for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) last year. Stewart, who oversees site safety for LM employees, contractors, and the public, stepped into his new role with the goal of changing the way the organization thought about safety and health. He made it a priority to collaborate with and support LM site teams and contractors as one unit committed to a strong safety culture.
“When it comes to safety and health, we’re working with staff at LM sites to plan the work and work the plan. That means outlining the work with the site teams and contractors before they get on site and making sure that they follow that plan once the project begins,” Stewart said. “We want to do more than simply prepare personnel for a project. Our mission is to help them throughout the project with regular site visits. When you're out on the same site every day, you can easily become complacent and overlook the details. We want to bring a fresh set of eyes to the site to ensure that everything is going as planned.”
So far, this approach is working. In support of LM’s mission, Stewart and his team have helped LM Support (LMS) meet the requirements for outstanding Safety and Health programs, as outlined by the DOE Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). This month, officials awarded LMS with VPP Star status, the program’s highest level of recognition (Read more about the award.)
To attain STAR status, LM’s Safety and Health Team focused on employee engagement, management leadership, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training. For LM site teams and contractors, this has meant a reduction of workplace injuries and illnesses, an increase in employee involvement, and an overall boost in morale.
While Stewart is proud of his team’s early success under the renewed safety culture, he stresses that this is just the beginning. VPP checks on its STAR organizations every three years to keep tabs on what’s working and requires constant effort toward improvement of safety and health strategies. For LM to maintain its STAR status, the Safety and Health Program must continue to evolve.
One of the program’s latest innovations is its digital Safety Data Sheets (SDS). SDS are used to keep an online record for each chemical stored at LM sites. Stewart explained that while some LM sites require specific chemicals to maintain equipment and monitoring systems, a recent hazard survey revealed an overwhelming number of chemicals at LM sites that were not serving a purpose, creating a potential danger to site workers. He and his team expected to log about 600 chemicals, but the inventory dwarfed that estimate with nearly 1,400 chemicals found.
Digital SDS will enable the Health and Safety Team to cross-reference chemicals at various sites without having to travel to the site, managing the disposal of excess chemicals to reduce hazards to those present.
Stewart is driven by a sense of purpose to keep the organization’s employees and contractors safe while balancing their needs and wants. That mission means staying focused on new ways to enhance LM’s Safety and Health Program. After all, it’s his job to be on the constant “look out,” and he takes his post very seriously.
“We have to continue to improve,” Stewart said. “Continue to improve our processes, continue to improve our culture — continue to improve everything.”