News Releases

Senator Murray Applauds New Protections for Hanford Workers

Feb 02 2006

New Federal Regulation Sets National Health and Safety Standards for more than 100,000 Non-Nuclear Workers at All DOE Sites – Including Hanford

Overview of New DOE Rule

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray praised the U.S. Department of Energy for issuing new rules that will raise worker safety and health standards for some workers at the Hanford Nuclear facility and at nuclear sites around the country.

The new regulations, which Murray pushed for, will ensure that non-nuclear workers at DOE facilities receive better health and safety protections. The rule also gives the Department of Energy the power to impose fines on DOE contractors who violate the new standards.

The new rule closes a loophole that left non-nuclear workers at DOE nuclear facilities without adequate safety and health protections.

"Until now, contractors around the country got to set their own rules for worker health and safety with inadequate oversight or enforcement. Now all DOE nuclear contractors will have to follow the same standards and will be held accountable by the federal government," Murray said. "These new rules will ensure that all non-nuclear workers will receive the same health and safety protections at DOE sites across the country."

The new rules will take effect on February 7, 2007 and contractors will spend 2006 being trained on the new standards to ensure fast and complete compliance.

For years, DOE nuclear workers have been protected by federal law, but until today there were no uniform health or safety rules to protect non-nuclear workers at sites like Hanford.

As co-chair of the Senate Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, Senator Murray worked with a bipartisan coalition of Senators who have nuclear facilities in their states to enact the new protections. Together the Senators passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2003, which forced the Department of Energy to issue the new rule. Murray also wrote letters to the President, Energy Secretary, Defense Secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget urging the Bush Administration to swiftly issue the new rule.

The new "Worker Safety and Health Rule":

  • Requires DOE contractors to develop a written safety and health plan;

  • Requires DOE contractors to comply with worker safety and health standards from OSHA, and other applicable national consensus standards;

  • Sets uniform standards across all DOE nuclear facilities;

  • Creates an enforcement mechanism at DOE to ensure compliance;

  • Allows the Department to impose penalties on contractors who violate the new standards. Penalties could be as high as $70,000 per violation, per day.