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NRC takes up complaint of Davis-Besse employee

02/01/03

John Funk
Plain Dealer Reporter

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FirstEnergy Corp. said yesterday that they are investigating a complaint from a worker that his supervisor reprimanded him - instead of the man who threatened him - during a job-related argument in December at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo.

"We are looking into the allegations," said an NRC spokesman. The accusations were made Thursday by the worker's lawyer at a public meeting near Chicago.

Lawyer Howard Whitcomb made complaints minutes after the company concluded a four-hour presentation about its efforts to instill a "safety culture" at Davis-Besse.

Whitcomb, a former NRC inspector who also once worked at Davis-Besse, said his client was one of three employees who told him they had been threatened in separate incidents after they questioned whether a job was being done properly.

One worker's auto tires were slashed in early January, said Whitcomb, after the employee stopped a project in the reactor containment building over a safety issue. Co-workers also threatened the employee, he said. "This person is very afraid. I don't know if a report was filed."

A third employee, who tried to stop a job over safety questions in December, was threatened by a co-worker and ostracized by other employees, said Whitcomb. "This person does not want to come forward."

In a plant with an adequate safety culture, workers are encouraged to bring up safety concerns, say industry experts. The NRC has made safety culture a hurdle Davis-Besse managers must master.

Whitcomb said his client's reprimand was removed from his file after he appealed. The worker has requested an apology and that a retraction be placed in the file.

"The incident is indicative of an environment that does not lend itself to people coming out and expressing concerns," said Whitcomb.

Company spokesman Todd Schneider acknowledged the company has received a letter from Whitcomb's client. But Schneider said he could find no report about tire slashing.


2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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