Is a Safety Conscious Work Environment being Enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?
By Kyle Sweeney CM 107
What is a Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE)? Do all employers follow the SCWE guidelines? I work in a heavily federal regulated industry (nuclear) and if there is there is not a SCWE, they will either temporarily close you down or place you under a Confirmatory Order until you do. Well, this has not work out well at my place of employment.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a policy in 1996 (you can see it here: https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/allegations/scwe-frn-5-14-96.pdf) which stated that the employer must ensure that employees in the nuclear industry can raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation. For the site I have been employed at this has not been the case since 2014. The NRC issued a confirmatory order directing the employer to issue a plan that would resolve this issue within the workforce. It stated that the employer must inform the employees of all the options available to them if they needed to report a safety concern and additional training. The employer increased training frequency for supervisors/managers and posted the avenues available to employees to report their concerns. Some of those avenues included the immediate supervisor/manager, Employee Concerns and directly to the NRC themselves.
Over the last year there has been many employees that have raised concerns to their managers and no actions were taken. These concerns were then raised to the Employee Concerns and again no actions were taken. These same concerns were raised to the NRC and they substantiated these concerns. The NRC again, asked the employer to come up with a plan to fix these issues. The employer created a plan in November of 2016. Since this plan was created, 5 of the 8 employees in my department have been terminated. These five employees were individuals that had raised concerns to the managers, Employee Concern and some of the concerns were also turned over to the NRC.
So, NRC acted by having the employer being accused, conduct their own investigation. Are you kidding me? How do I know this you ask? I was one of the five individuals terminated and NRC contacted me and informed me of this. While NRC tried to defend the employer with the information the employer provided them about my concern, I had informed NRC that they had provided inaccurate information and provided them more accurate information. Their response was, we will follow up with the employer and get some more information. At no point has NRC conducted their own investigation.
The system is broken. The policy that NRC created is not being followed by all employers and NRC is not doing a good job to ensure it is being enforced. I would like to end this with some questions for the reader. Where do we go for assistance now? How can we stop this? What is the use of a Safety Conscious Work Environment if the individuals that created it, will not enforce it?