Lab will begin limited return to work for Reduced Mission-Critical Operations

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lab has reduced its staffing at sites 200 and 300 to that required for safety, security and the minimal maintenance of facilities. In addition, IT staff has been on site helping to support the enormous growth in telecommuting over the past month.

Small groups of employees have made themselves available at the Lab to respond without delay to questions about the stockpile that arise in the course of surveillance and dismantling, to maintain critical national response activities like NEST and NARAC and to engage in projects that have spun up to respond directly to the pandemic. I want to extend my thanks to all those who have been on site keeping the Lab, and the nation, safe and secure during these difficult days. 

Thousands of employees have answered the call to shelter-in-place at home while carrying on their work through telecommuting. They, along with everyone caring for their families, worrying for their communities and waiting for news, while maintaining their dedication to the Lab and its mission, deserve recognition. All of us should be aware of the anxiety, dislocation and often loneliness being experienced in our Lab family.

Our planning for what we have been calling Minimum Safe Operations always included the continuation and resumption over time of a set of mission critical activities on site, a posture NNSA deems “Reduced Mission-Critical Operations.” Doing so is consistent with local shelter-in-place orders, which accept essential critical infrastructure to include the defense industrial base. Discussions over the past week with NNSA have identified specific mission-critical weapons activities that require access to the site for classified work. It also has been clear in these discussions that safety and health of our staff are paramount considerations in resuming and performing any work.

Beginning this week, a small number of employees will be returning to workstations at the Lab to support mission critical projects by performing classified computing and other work that cannot be accomplished remotely. These employees have been individually notified. No employee should be coming to the Lab without specific authorization from their management.

The Laboratory’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of the workforce during any on-site operations, including those resuming this week. The number of people on site will remain small to minimize contact and enable “social distancing.” Protocols for working on site include the precautions we have all been practicing, as well as access to PPE, and the maintenance of clean work areas. These protocols have been formalized into a Sitewide Work Control Document that spell out the controls designed to protect employees from the potential spread of the coronavirus in the workplace.

Everyone must continue to practice discipline and deliberation to ensure a safe workplace. Any employee who feels ill must stay home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours without the use of symptom-altering medications (e.g., fever reducers). If a worker falls ill while on site, it is imperative they inform their supervisor and leave work immediately. If symptoms worsen, they should contact their health care provider for guidance.

Employees who are not on site should continue their current posture and continue to follow current time-charging guidance, whether they are telecommuting or on authorized leave. As we receive additional direction or guidance from NNSA, we will communicate changes. The Laboratory is aware of the extended school closures in the Bay Area and we are working with NNSA to accommodate them in the longer term.

This remains a time of tremendous uncertainty, but responding to challenges is a defining characteristic of the Lab. Our work plays a vital role in making the world safer, and we are engaged in critical work right now both supporting nuclear security, and better understanding the coronavirus. I thank everyone for their patience and dedication as we continue to respond to this unprecedented situation.

 - Bill Goldstein, LLNL director