Dec. 21, 2001

NIF construction site sets new record for safety

On Dec. 14, the National Ignition Facility construction site set a record of one year and more than one million hours without a single lost workday injury.
"This record exceeds by a wide margin previous site records and is the result of a strong team effort and serious commitment to safety by the Laboratory, Jacobs Engineering, our contractors and contractor employees," NIF Project Manager Ed Moses said. "More importantly than the record, the NIF team is going home everyday to be with family and friends free from serious injury."

This record was set during a period of intense activity this past year that included completion of conventional facilities construction, installation of the cluster 3 beampath as well as successful completion of many other key NIF milestones.

A good measure, and widely recognized standard of the number of injuries, is the OSHA Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRR).

Eighteen months ago, NIF managers were seeing injury rates in the double-digit figures. The NIF Project took key steps to ensure that calendar year 2001 would not be a repeat of 2000, and this effort has paid off.

Through intense teamwork and commitment, the situation has turned around. This year the injury rate has been reduced more than a factor of six to an average injury rate of 1.8 in more than 1.1 million hours worked at the NIF construction project. The TRR of 1.8, including a three-month period when it was zero, made the NIF’s safety record far better than the averages for this type of work. The state and national safety record is 9.5 and 8.9 respectively.
"We can build NIF and do it safely," Moses said. "Safety requires us to be ever vigilant. This year’s success gives us confidence that with a continuing team effort, a strong safety commitment and continuous improvement, we will have a workforce that is free of injury."

An important step leading to this improvement was to tap the commercial market for safety expertise. Large-scale construction safety management is not an LLNL core competency. Several companies have safety records that are considerably better than the national average on projects and the Laboratory partnered with them.

The Laboratory accessed safety expertise through DuPont’s George Stalnaker, who has more than 27 years of experience in private sector construction with a renowned safety record. He was tapped last year to become the NIF site safety consultant and he has been located on site full time since November 2000.
"I had construction safety experience to add to the mix and we put it to work at NIF," Stalnaker said. "We turned the safety record around by doing things we knew in DuPont and in the private sector to be successful on construction projects."

Stalnaker and LLNL’s Arnold Clobes, NIF Site Safety Council chairman and Beampath Infrastructure System Integration manager, said NIF line managers were key and instrumental in making the changes.

"We broadened the safety operation into a management process and procedure," Clobes said. "Everyone at the line management levels knows this is really important."

Clobes said Laboratory and Jacobs line managers were not only instrumental in setting the safety standards and getting the message out, but took other measures as well. These included increased site presence, initiating an effective safety rewards and recognition program, participating in safety leadership training, and carrying out effective weekly audits and assessments to measure the pulse of the site and make corrections as necessary.

"There are a lot of good ideas on improving safety and in the NIF site environment we strive to make the best ideas a part of our everyday work experience," Clobes said. "The improvements are broadly based — there are no silver bullets."

This has been a great team effort by not only line management, but LLNL and Jacobs safety support as well. ES&H Team 2 and the DOE OAK team were very helpful in the process.

"There’s been a change in attitude about improving safety," Stalnaker said. "This kind of top-to-bottom cultural change is at the heart of the our approach to safety, and is one big reason NIF is seeing such vast improvement in the numbers."