| Article published Saturday, May 3, 2003|
donít see culture of safety
exhausting schedules, report says
BLADE STAFF WRITER
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Workers at the Davis-Besse
nuclear power plant are skeptical about FirstEnergy Corp.ís
long-term commitment to safety, especially after the plant goes back
into service and the NRCís presence eventually diminishes, according
to a report by an industrial psychologist.
utility generally recognizes that safety is a priority at
Davis-Besse, it continues to fall short in drilling the need for it
into the collective mind-set of its workers and its management
running the plant, Dr. Sonja Haber, president of the New York firm
Human Performance Analysis Corp., said.
She is an industrial
psychologist that FirstEnergy brought in as a consultant to evaluate
Davis-Besseís safety culture. The evaluation was performed by a
six-member team that she headed.
In its summary, Dr. Haberís
team cited concerns about FirstEnergy being able to "ensure the
long-term promotion of a positive safety culture."
much-anticipated report was released yesterday by the Nuclear
Jack Grobe, chairman of the NRC panel
overseeing Davis-Besse, had little to say about the report. He said
the NRC will discuss it in detail at an upcoming meeting that will
include information being pulled together by the agencyís own
seven-member team of workplace evaluators.
The NRC has
demanded evidence of an improved safety culture before giving
FirstEnergy authorization to restart Davis-Besse, but has been
cryptic about what it wants.
Dr. Haber claims to have more
than 25 years experience analyzing human performance at workplaces
throughout North America and abroad, including training nuclear
workers in former Soviet Union countries.
Davis-Besse is only
the second U.S. nuclear plant to undergo this type of formal
The first was the Millstone complex in
Connecticut, where the agency had demanded changes in 1996 because
it said it had learned of workers being intimidated and
Dr. Haberís report was based on a cross-section of
on-site observations, record reviews, surveys, and interviews. The
latter included 88 hour-long interviews with employees.
statistics were cited. Some of the more revealing statements were
w There is a widespread perception of "them versus us"
within the organization, particularly among some senior managers
with regard to station personnel.
w Workers believe senior
management "has not acknowledged their accountability and
responsibility" for the plantís severely corroded reactor head, the
worst problem of its kind in U.S. nuclear history.
leaked from the reactor nearly burned a hole through the
six-inch-thick device that holds back the reactorís enormous
"Staff point out that some of the managers directly
involved in the event remain in the organization and have been
reassigned to other sites and positions. The reassignments are
perceived as indicating that the managers have not been held
accountable by the organization," the report said.
Exhausting work schedules could be counter-productive. Some workers
have been assigned as many as six, 12-hour shifts a week for months
- 72 hours a week.
Those type of hours are consistent with
industry practices during a normal outage, but outages normally last
a few weeks. This one will soon enter its 15th month. "The
continuing long hours have the potential to lead to degraded safety
performance," the report said.
w Midlevel supervisors arenít
trusted enough to make tough calls. "Decision making in the
organization is a very top-down process and is based upon the
perception reported to the team by senior management that station
managers donít know how to make decisions," the report said. It
further noted that style inhibits lower-level managers from being as
involved as they could.
w Employees continue to be frustrated
by a lack of follow-through. "Most employees believe that it is the
resolution of issues that has been a problem in the past and that,
unless improvements in this area occur, the station may again
experience an apathetic attitude towards reporting," the team
Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said the
company got what it wanted: An honest assessment of its workplace
"What we were not looking for was a report that
gave us a pat on the head. We knew then and we know now that weíre
not done in terms of addressing issues of safety culture," he
Overall, the company saw no major surprises and
believes it is on the right track for making necessary improvements,
Its latest management shuffling, announced April 25,
was partly in response to Dr. Haberís report. Randy Fast, who had
been Davis-Besseís plant manager, was named to the newly created
position of director of organizational development to help oversee
safety culture issues, Mr. Wilkins said.
Observers such as
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) have said they are puzzled
by the NRCís apparent lack of continuity between the safety culture
review process at Millstone and Davis-Besse.
Paul Blanch, a
former Millstone employee who brought forth some of the problems
there, said he concluded after reading Dr. Haberís report that
FirstEnergy hasnít "learned the lessons from Millstone
Amy Ryder, Ohio Citizen Action spokesman, said Dr.
Haberís report raises new questions about Davis-Besseís safety
"She seemed to identify a pretty big gap between the
leadership and the workers running the plant." Ms. Ryder
For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to
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