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Administrator Highlights NNSA's Safety Record in Remarks to 2009 Integrated Safety Management Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Thomas D'Agostino addressed the 2009 Department of Energy Integrated Safety Management (ISM) Conference in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday, Aug. 26.  In his remarks, Administrator D'Agostino highlighted the NNSA's track record of developing innovative approaches to workplace safety.  And, while he noted the improvements in NNSA's safety record over the years, the Administrator highlighted the need to ensure that workers across the nuclear security enterprise never become complacent in their approach to safety.

Since it was first introduced in 1996, the Integrated Safety Management system is the tool the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration use to build a safe, secure and environmentally sound workplace. The annual conference provides an opportunity for attendees to hear from DOE and NNSA leadership and share ideas and best practices regarding safety and security across the enterprise.  This year, more than 950 people from DOE, NNSA, the contractor community and site offices across the enterprise participated in the ISM conference.

The text of the Administrator's remarks as prepared for delivery can be found on the NNSA website. The following are excerpts of those remarks:

  • On the Need for Constant Vigilance:  "My views on safety were established very early in my career as a submarine officer.  We prided ourselves in our safety culture, attention to detail and quality.  After all, our lives were on the line, right?  Well, pride can be a dangerous thing.  From my experience, our pride in our safety record led to complacency, and that complacency led to me witnessing a horrific accident onboard the U.S.S. Skipjack in 1984.  That accident has stayed with me for many decades, and that is why I fully support ISM and this conference… The Department of Energy and NNSA should be justifiably proud of their safety record and improvements made.  However, we should never let pride lead to complacency.  Your commitment to safety and this conference give me the confidence that we will remain vigilant."
  •  On President Obama's Nuclear Security Agenda: "Over the coming months, President Obama will be advancing his program to bolster U.S. leadership in reducing global nuclear dangers.  Because of our core capabilities, NNSA and the Department of Energy will play a critical role in this effort.  Our commitment to safety is tied to that.  Many of the major programs that will be required to meet the President's nuclear security agenda and maintain the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear deterrent are major construction projects like the Highly Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF) right here at Y-12."  
  • On Reforming the Nuclear Security Enterprise:  "In keeping with Secretary Chu's commitment to bringing reform to the Department, I established an internal Enterprise Reengineering Team to identify Complex-wide reform initiatives that will change the way we in the NNSA do business.   The response was terrific. The ERT received over 100 recommendations from Headquarters, the Site Offices, the Service Center, and the national laboratories and production plants. I have set up team leads to work on the issues raised in those recommendations.  The ultimate goal is to streamline the Federal/contractor relationship with clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability between Federal and contractor employees to significantly enhance our ability to more effectively accomplish our programmatic missions.  Improving safety at our sites without adding onerous new regulatory and governance burdens is a key part of this.  Reform means bringing best practices to all areas of what we do, including safety."
  • On NNSA's Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (SS21) Campaign: "For example, our Pantex site has been a trailblazer in merging best business practices with best safety practice.  They adopted the principals of a High Reliability Organization (HRO) and have utilized advanced tools like Human Performance Improvement (HPI), Behavioral Based Safety, and a robust Causal Factor Analysis Program.  As a result, there has been over a 90% improvement in quality (96% fewer defects) and a 44% reduction in total reportable cases of safety concern.  This was all accomplished with an 82% increase in production.   That's not a coincidence.  This was done deliberately.  And it was done by working closely with the DNFSB and implementing a program we called SS21, or Seamless Safety for the 21st Century.  It took time and money to do this, but the results have been nothing short of remarkable.  As I said, we doubled production, we improved quality, and we reduced reportable safety concerns by almost 50%."
  • On Incentivizing Safety in the Nuclear Security Enterprise:  "Let me tell you a story about the importance of the workforce… The Nevada Test Site has instituted a new program to financially reward people for providing suggestions to improve operations.  Several suggestions have led to improved safety with a 70% reduction in safety incidents.  In one case, an employee responsible for covering equipment and material in large truck beds suggested an automatic truck covering system.  The new system eliminated the need for employees to climb up on top of large loads and balance as they attempted to cover this material.  This individual received a $5,000 award for his efforts." 

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit for more information.

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