Richland starting a Hanford-wide program to protect workers from beryllium disease is a step in the right direction, but improvements are needed to give the program a strong foundation, according to the Department of Energy.
DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security investigated the Hanford Site Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program (CBDPP) this spring in response to concerns of workers with the disease, the Hanford Advisory Board, Heart of America Northwest and others.
The results of the investigation were released Wednesday.
The site-wide program started this year gives workers consistent training and controls for beryllium-contaminated dust, which can cause incurable lung disease in some people, DOE said in a news release.
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However, DOE was slow to implement the program, and the program needs to be strengthened, according to DOE.
It said the investigation identified two significant weaknesses.
DOE needs to better identify the places at Hanford where beryllium may still linger in the dust from Hanford’s production days. Beryllium was used in fuel production and also may be been spread when nonsparking tools made from beryllium were modified.
DOE also needs to do a better job of analyzing newly diagnosed cases of chronic beryllium disease and workers who test positive for sensitivity to beryllium, which can be detected only after they have been exposed.
Studying those cases may help identify workers at risk for exposure, improve understanding of beryllium health risks and identify actions to improve the disease prevention program at Hanford.
“We are committed to implementing the review’s recommendations and strengthening the CBDPP to ensure that each of you has the information you need to conduct your work safely,” said Ines Triay, the DOE assistant secretary for environmental management, in a statement.
Additional staff members will be hired to administer and oversee the program.
Hanford officials started working on improving the beryllium program while the investigation was in progress as it became evident that changes would be needed.
That included directing contractors to ramp up their beryllium protection work in April and May and meetings with hundreds of Hanford workers in May to discuss beryllium prevention.