Y‑12 representatives brought home a star from the 32nd Annual National Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) Safety and Health Conference in Kissimmee, Florida, in September.
The conference gathered safety leaders from 400 industries that participate in the VPPPA. The Star of Excellence Award Y‑12 won recognizes sites that maintain a recordable injury rate that is 75 percent better than U.S. businesses in the same industry. The 2016 award is based on statistics from the 2015 calendar year.
Brad Davy, director of Department of Energy’s Office of Worker Safety and Health Assistance, presented the award. “This award provided by the Department of Energy recognizes a contractor for excellence in safety and health systems going above and beyond requirements and demonstrating effective management commitment and employee involvement while applying the Integrated Safety Management System,” he said.
The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is the result of cooperation between companies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, state OSHA leaders, members of congress, DOE, and the Department of Defense.
CNS Senior Director of Environment, Safety, and Health Chris Cantwell said the award criteria is a gateway but is not the destination. “The Star criteria is a threshold, but it doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with that — that we’re finished,” Cantwell said. “We will strive to improve far beyond the minimum.”
Y-12 VPP Facilitator Vaughn Hooks noted that the award criteria considers factors in addition to injury incident rates. “Demonstration of the extent and effect of the site’s mentoring and outreach efforts is one of the criteria to be recognized for the Star of Excellence award, and Y‑12 has a long tradition of investing in its local community through volunteerism and charitable contributions,” Hooks said.
When the award plaque was presented to Y‑12 Site Manager Bill Tindal during a recent managers meeting, he pointed out that the award belongs to all Y‑12 employees for their efforts to work safely every day.
Don Walker of Y‑12 Safeguards and Security’s Protective Force Operations and Training completed the Special Government Employee Program before the conference began. This program allows industry employees to work alongside OSHA and DOE during VPP on‑site evaluations. Not only does this innovative program benefit OSHA by supplementing its on‑site evaluation teams, but it gives industry and government an opportunity to work together and share views and ideas.
Experience is the teacher of all things—Julius Caesar
Steve Robison doesn’t focus on what he’s lost, only what he’s gained, including a wealth of experience, and for the Army veteran, experience has a great deal to do with being a good team member.
Robison is one of the 32 graduates from the Tactical Response Force I class held this summer in Oak Ridge. These graduates, a majority of whom will be security police officers at Y-12, endured the southern heat and humidity to demonstrate their weapon-handling expertise. They also knocked the top off the classroom work with an average of 96 percent on written exams.
“My history with the military gave me a good background for this position,” he said. “I was in the Army until 2005, when I lost my leg. After I retired in 2006, I became a civilian instructor for the Army teaching basic combat tactics, so the requirements are within my realm of experience.”
Robison draws from his military experience to not only to excel in the field and the classroom but also to make himself a great team member. “Our class worked together to succeed, and that follows through into our positions as SPOs,” he said. “We’re all proud to help protect one of our nation’s security assets, and we’re all excited to get to work with such a wealth of knowledge at Y-12.”
While the mission at Y-12 is somewhat different from his military days, Robison says integrating the additional concepts of law enforcement into his combat-based background is an exciting challenge.
“The mix of military and law enforcement backgrounds here is a great asset to our mission,” he said. “As our class integrates into the security team, we’re learning as much as we can from the expertise available here at Y-12. Personally, I’m excited to get back to work with people of a like mindset.”
Robison said rejoining a familiar team not only appealed to him, but the TRF I course allowed him to challenge myself mentally and physically. “Pro Force is a really good career field, and this is an excellent program,” he said. No special considerations were given to him for physical requirements, such as the mandatory mile run that must be completed in eight minutes and thirty seconds or less. Robison also proudly stated that each member of his class passed their weapons qualification on the first attempt with a score of 320 or higher out of 400.
As much as he enjoyed joining the Y-12 team, Director of Pro Force Operations and Training Eric Belcher says Y-12 was very glad to have Robison enroll in Basic Security Police Officer Training. “Steve and this class performed exceptionally well and worked extremely hard. These SPOs are critical to our mission, and the American people depend on us.” NNSA Production Office Manager Geoff Beausoleil agreed. “I talked with the class at their graduation, and I was struck by their dedication, professionalism and patriotism. Steve is humble with a great sense of humor—he is an impressive individual.”
As for Robison’s home team, he says his wife and children are enjoying the beauty of the area. It would seem Robison is well on his way to creating another chapter in his book of experience, and Y-12 and East Tennessee have gained an amazing team member.
Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Association recently hosted a Pull for Our Veterans Skeet and Trap Fun shoot. Pull for Our Veterans is a non-profit organized solely for the purpose of raising money for veterans and their families.
Consolidated Nuclear Security was a corporate sponsor and was represented by a five‑member employee team of shooting sportsmen and women. Team members included Brian Schlenker, Gary Hagan, Abe Mathews, Heather Mathews, and Todd Kisling.
Pull for Our Veterans President Richard Stouder has organized the shoot for the past few years and said, “This year, we raised over $40,000 for the Fisher House Foundation and HonorAir Knoxville.”
Earlier this year, the CNS team took part in a “Fun Shoot” in Sweetwater, which raised $5,000 for Pull for Our Veterans.
Stouder said the event in Sweetwater “nicely complements” the Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Association event.
The Fisher House Foundation provides a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and veterans medical centers. To date, they have served more than 277,000 families, provided more than 6.5 million days of lodging, and saved more than $320 million in lodging and transportation costs.
HonorAir Knoxville is a voluntary program dedicated to honoring East Tennessee military service personnel who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam wars. The program is designed to provide service members an all‑expense paid one‑day trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the monuments built to honor their sacrifice.
Despite the rain, Schlenker was the top shooter on the CNS team. While he has been a competitive shooter in the past, he enjoyed the format of this program that was designed not only as a benefit but also to provide an opportunity for shooters of all levels.
Kisling added, “It was a pleasure to represent the company and be able to make the other team members look so good.”
For Chris Caserta, the stress of finishing engineering school was only topped by the stress of wondering where to get a job afterward.
“Before hearing of Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program, I had planned on looking for whatever internship or co-op opportunity I could find that would help me develop professionally,” he said. “Thanks to the program, I have been able to begin my professional engineering career much earlier than I had expected.”
Caserta, who spent six years in the U.S. Army Reserve, found out about Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program from a student he was tutoring in calculus and physics at Pellissippi State Community College. That student, David Swinney, is a fellow veteran participating in Y-12’s program.
Through the program, veterans are provided with part-time employment, mentoring, support and work experience in their chosen field while pursuing their bachelor’s degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) discipline. Upon completion of their STEM degree, they convert to full-time employees.
After getting his associate degree from Pellissippi State, the former Army Reserve sergeant transferred to Tennessee Tech and is set to graduate in December. Caserta credits the Y-12 program with giving him skills and experience he otherwise would not have gotten until he began working, and those skills have helped him perform at his best academically.
“After only having spent a month and a half working over the winter break, I have been able to apply the technical writing skills and experience with heat transfer analysis that I learned on the job. I have been involved in a team experiment at TTU building a cooling tower and testing the effects of microfluids on the efficiency of the cycle,” he said. “My experience at Y-12 gave me the knowledge and experience so that I was elected as the team leader for the build process, experimental analysis, and technical writing of the report with a possible publication of our findings.”
One more advantage of joining Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program—Caserta won’t be walking into a job cold. “Overall, the program has given me an advantage in school and my professional career,” he said. “Not only do I have more time to focus on my studies, but I’ve also had the chance to develop professional relationships before graduating.”
There are eight veterans currently in the program at Y-12 with representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Y-12’s sister site in Amarillo, Texas, the Pantex Plant, is on the verge of beginning its own program, which is hoped to start in early 2017. Six graduates of the Y-12 program are working at the site as nuclear, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineers.
If you’d like to know more about the Y-12’s CNS Veterans Program, contact Rhonda Gibbons at 241-7285. For information about Pantex’s CNS Veterans Program, contact Cary Langham at 574-9838.
Recently, Pantex and Y-12 were inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency. Y-12’s inspection also included a visit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Both sites came away with stellar reviews after three day inspections in areas such as hazardous waste management, training and compliance documentation.
“This is a significant accomplishment that does not happen by accident, but instead through hard work, diligence, and a commitment to excellence,” said Teresa Robbins, NNSA Production Office deputy manager.
In addition to inspecting waste storage areas, the inspectors looked at numerous records. These records included hazardous waste manifests, annual hazardous waste activity reports, waste reduction reports, and hazardous waste training and lesson plan content. Despite the volume of records reviewed, inspectors noted only one minor issue.
Inspectors at each site had positive things to say about the various processes and procedures that they had observed. Inspectors noted that the Material Evaluation Process (waste characterization) employed at Pantex far exceeds what is required by regulation and is better than what he encountered at commercial waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. At Y-12, the inspector even asked for a photo of an exceptionally good Y-12 practice to use as a benchmark for others.
“There are hundreds of folks doing the hard work every day and likely wonder if anyone will notice. Each one needs to know that excellence is a choice. And, the string of individual decisions they have made is having a positive impact on this site’s overall reputation,” said Bill Tindal, Y-12 site manager.
“Seeing that there were no violations or concerns identified during this on site inspection only proves that we have a great group of people here that really take pride in their jobs and processes,” said Todd Ailes, Pantex site manager.