Washington River Protection Solutions wins national safety award

Campbell Institute Award

Mark Lindholm (third from left), WRPS President and Project Manager, receives the 2017 Campbell Innovation Challenge award Tuesday at the Campbell Symposium in New Orleans.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) received the 2017 Campbell Innovation Challenge award Tuesday for developing a physiological monitoring program that has eliminated heat stress cases the past two years at the Hanford tank farms.

WRPS, an AECOM-led company, is the Tank Operations Contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state. The company is responsible for managing 56 million gallons of highly radioactive and chemical waste stored in 177 underground tanks.

The Innovation Challenge, which is awarded by the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council, recognizes organizations for their achievement in the planning or implementation of an innovative program addressing critical environmental, health and safety topics in a way that demonstrates creative thinking, strategic implementation and significant impact.

“WRPS and AECOM are honored to be recognized by Campbell Institute,” said Mark Lindholm, WRPS president and project manager. “This award demonstrates not only the creativity and forward thinking of our employees, but also their steadfast commitment to protecting their co-workers, the public and the environment.”

Hanford is located in a hot desert environment. Many workers wear extensive personal protective equipment that often includes multiple layers of impermeable clothing tape-sealed to two pairs of gloves, booties, hoods and necessary respiratory protection. While this equipment protects the worker from chemical and radiological hazards, it creates other physical threats, including the increased potential of heat stress.

Physiological monitoring is a basic way to measure the level of an individual’s heat strain in response to heat-stress conditions. The new physiological program involves monitoring employees’ heart rates using a novel chest-mounted heart rate monitor that allows for remote, real-time assessment of heat strain and core body temperature using a tympanic membrane thermometer for periodic assessment of heat strain.

In the past, WRPS and other Hanford contractors conducted assessments for heat stress using Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measurement and relied on self-reporting of symptoms. When workers had symptoms, they exited the work location, removed multiple layers of PPE and had their heart pulse rate measured.
“The innovative program removes employees from harmful heat-related tasks before they develop heat stress symptoms,” Lindholm said.

WRPS performed physiological monitoring on a limited basis in 2014, then conducted full campaigns in 2015 – which was one of the hottest summers ever on the Hanford Site with 28 days at or over 100 degrees – and again in 2016. In 2,290 sessions conducted in 2015 and 2,510 sessions in 2016, there were no heat stress-related disorders. The campaigns ran from May through September.

The project team that developed and implemented the innovation consisted of WRPS management, field work supervisors and industrial hygiene personnel. The team conducted significant testing of the heart pulse rate monitor and remote monitoring system. Ongoing, comprehensive campaigns educated and involved employees to develop associated protocols and procedures.

“The development and implementation of the program was realized because of employee engagement, teamwork and a strong commitment to safety,” Lindholm said. “Congratulations to the team for making the tank farms a safer place to work.”

Twitter: @WRPSTOC

WRPS honored for lifesaving innovation

WRPS was recognized this week for helping develop a face shield that protects a worker wearing full-face respiratory equipment from an arc flash, a type of electrical explosion or discharge where temperatures can reach 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Read about it here.

Columbia Basin Dive Rescue dives for donation


WRPS employees have clocked another 90 consecutive days without a lost-work day and another local organization has benefited.

Columbia Basin Dive Rescue (CBDR) was nominated by Bethany Thomas of the North Employee Accident Prevention Council (NEAPC) to receive the Safety Outreach Award. Each council nominates and votes on a finalist and Mark Lindholm, President and Project Manager, chooses the winner.

CBDR is a local non-profit organization that started in 1972 and serves a 4,000-square-mile area. Not only helping with the emergency situations reported in the local media, CBDR also assists with evidence recoveries, ground searches and watercraft recoveries.

CBDR currently has 12 qualified members and three in training. Being on staff at CBDR is a big commitment. Training takes a year, and after acceptance, training never stops. A weekly commitment of two to six hours is required. Members are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to respond to emergencies. Most on staff have a background in a life-saving capacities, such as military training or firefighting. However, there are volunteer opportunities that don’t require the time commitment or being on call, such as working in the office or providing support.

Mike McDowell, Process Systems and Engineering Support, accepted the check on behalf of CBDR. McDowell is the public information officer as well as ground support. WRPS allows McDowell the flexibility to respond to emergency calls during work hours. “We appreciate WRPS support of our mission at CBDR to help protect our community and educate the public on water safety. If an emergency arises we are there with top-of-the-line rescue equipment,” said McDowell.

Want to influence who the next donation goes to? Get involved with your EAPC and nominate an organization!

WRPS receives 2 awards at 2015 VPPPA national conference

DSC_1104WRPS received two safety awards last week at the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association (VPPPA) national conference in Grapevine, Texas.

The first was the VPP Innovation Award, which WRPS received for developing a tool that reduced worker exposure during surveys of radioactive equipment used to retrieve tank waste.

The award recognizes an individual, company or worksite that has developed and implemented an innovation, encouraged others to try new approaches and emphasized the value of creativity and flexibility in the resolution of worker safety and health problems.  VPPPA does not present the award each year – only when the innovation impacts the site, community and nation.

“The VPP Innovation Award represents the strong commitment our employees demonstrate each and every day while working in highly hazardous conditions and also their continuous drive to make the tank farms a safe place to work,” said Ed Adams, WRPS Radiological Controls manager.

The new tool was developed and constructed by a team of workers from WRPS’ radiological control, waste management and construction organizations.  The team consisted of Pete Carlson, Mike Copeland, Ben Davis, Karen Engebretson, William Hughes, Marco Nicacio, Ches Phillips and Dennis Riste.

The innovative tool features lightweight piping with nine survey points built in to properly position electronic dosimeters so that dose rates can be remotely recorded. The tool is then moved down the length of the long-length equipment until the survey is completed.

“In addition to minimizing exposure to workers, it has been estimated that the tool also cuts the amount of time it takes to survey a large piece of equipment by 50 percent,” said Owen Berglund, a project manager for the Radiological Controls organization.  “This time reduction could result in a dose savings to the workers of over 1.5 rem annually and significantly reduce employees’ exposure to radiological hazards during this evolution.”

The second award WRPS received was the VPP Star of Excellence, awarded to VPP Star Sites that have injury/illness rates greater than 75 percent below the national average, demonstrate outstanding mentoring and innovation, and support the continuous improvement of the DOE VPP system.

This was the first year that WRPS was eligible for the Star of Excellence since achieving DOE VPP Star status in 2014.  It is the highest honor bestowed by the DOE VPP for a Star site.

Davis, Engbretson, Steve Ellingson, Brian Ivey, Kliss McNeel, Chris Thursby and Stacy Thursby attended the annual conference on behalf of WRPS.

Washington River Protection Solutions receives 2 national safety awards

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) received two safety awards at the annual Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association (VPPPA) national conference this week in Grapevine, Texas.


WRPS releases plan to improve chemical vapors management

IP report photoRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the Hanford tank operations contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of River Protection (DOE-ORP), today released a comprehensive implementation plan to address recent chemical vapor exposure concerns and further improve worker safety.

The plan was developed in response to recommendations by an expert panel in its Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment Report released in October 2014. The report outlines 10 overarching recommendations—encompassing 47 specific recommendations—to help reduce potential chemical vapor exposure to workers. The implementation plan released today specifically addresses these recommendations by identifying activities to be carried out over the coming months and years.

“We are continuously improving the worker protection program at Hanford’s tank farms,” said WRPS President and CEO Dave Olson. “Using the recommendations from the report, we developed specific actions we plan to implement in a sustained, multi-year, two-phased effort to further protect workers from potential exposure to chemical vapors. This plan represents a clear commitment to make that happen.”

Planned actions include improving sampling and detection technology, expanding sampling and characterization of the tank head space gases, increasing real-time monitoring, and evaluation and deployment of new abatement technologies.

A number of actions called for in the report and outlined in the plan have already been implemented—including use of personal respiratory protective gear—and several others are underway as part of the first phase. A WRPS project team will lead the implementation of actions outlined in the plan. Depending on information gathered and evaluated after the first phase, second-phase actions, costs, and schedules will be reviewed and, as needed, revised to reflect any new technical basis, as well as the ongoing incorporation of new technology and/or findings from research and development activities.

“We are confident that the steps outlined in this plan will improve the environment where we work and move us toward the next generation of tank farms where potential exposure to chemical vapors is further reduced,” Olson said.

WRPS recognizes that significantly reducing the potential for exposures to chemical vapors will take a sustained ongoing effort requiring action and continuous improvement beyond the recommendations addressed in the plan. In addition, a number of actions outside the scope of this plan will, over time, significantly reduce the need for worker entries into the tank farms.  Recent examples include installing wireless systems and completing a central control room to monitor the tanks around the clock. Other efforts will improve tank farm ventilation with additional exhausters and extension of exhaust stacks.

Department of Energy Office of River Protection statement

Implementation Plan for Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment Report Recommendations

WRPS IP transmittal letter to DOE-ORP

SRNL completes assessment of WRPS IH program

TVATRICHLAND, Wash.—The Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) Tank Vapor Assessment Team (TVAT) has released its final report on the Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) industrial hygiene program. Worker safety is a core value of WRPS, and the company initiated the TVAT review as part of its commitment to eliminate or further reduce worker exposure to chemical vapors.

WRPS has made substantial improvements in the Hanford tank farms’ chemical vapor management program since being selected to operate the tank farms in 2008 and believes the TVAT recommendations will help it move to an even greater level of worker protection.

Based on a review of an earlier draft report, implementation of some recommendations has already begun or been completed, including the required use of minimum half-face respirators in single-shell tank farms, starting in September, and the hiring of additional industrial hygiene staff.

The report recognizes WRPS’ overall industrial hygiene approach is based on accepted industry health and safety practices which focus on protecting against the long-term health effects that can result from cumulative or ongoing exposures. But, the report cites significant challenges in dealing with short, intermittent, higher-concentration exposures the team believes are the likely cause of worker symptoms.

The report’s recommendations will serve as a road map to help WRPS make necessary enhancements in a number of areas.  The development of novel strategies or new technologies may be necessary to deal with the unique nature of Hanford tank waste.

In the weeks ahead, WRPS will complete a plan for implementing the TVAT recommendations and integrating those actions with the ongoing activities of its internal Chemical Vapor Solutions Team.

Full implementation will be a multi-year effort and may require additional research and development. WRPS is committed to using the TVAT’s efforts to enhance its current program and provide an increased level of protection for its workers.

SRNL released the following statement regarding the report: http://srnl.doe.gov/news/releases/nr14_srnl-advisory-hanford-vapors-report.pdf

The full report is available here: Hanford_Tank_Vapor_Assessment_Report

WRPS receives national VPPPA award

VPPPA award

Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) President and Project Manager Dave Olson, Safety and Health Manager Clint Wolfley and Industrial Hygiene Manager Ashley Kunz were awarded the 2014 Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) 2014 Safety and Health Outreach Award by the VPPPA National Board of Directors.  The award was presented Aug. 24 at the 30th Annual National VPPPA Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

The purpose of the Safety and Health Outreach Award is to provide recognition for “VPP models” who reach out to share the safety, health, technical and management expertise developed at their worksites.

Among WRPS’ outreach activities was conducting SafetyFest Tri-Cities, consisting of free safety training for local small businesses, agriculture groups and other organizations.  WRPS also initiated a health and safety mentoring program that supplied course information to universities than included Central Washington University and Boise State University.  And WRPS donated $1,000 to the American Red Cross to improve safety and health outreach efforts in the Tri-Cities.

“This award recognizes an impressive and commendable accomplishment,” said Tom Webb, VPPPA Strategic Development & Member Services manager.   “WRPS deserves credit for placing such a high priority on the safety of its employees at the Hanford site.”

About WRPS
WRPS, owned by URS Corporation and EnergySolutions, with integrated subcontractor AREVA, is a prime contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection and is responsible for managing and reducing the risk posed by the waste stored in Hanford’s aging underground tanks.