DOE denies petition to establish 'safety-conscious' rule

The Department of Energy this week denied a petition calling for the department to establish a program to protect whistleblowers, calling such a proposal unnecessary in light of existing worker protections.

The Hanford Challenge, a Seattle-based group striving for clean and safe operations at the government-owned Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, petitioned DOE in August 2009 to institute a "Safety-Conscious Work Environment" similar to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission program of the same name. DOE published a request for comments on the petition Oct. 16, 2009.

The rule would have attempted, through regulation, to create a work environment where employees are encouraged to raise concerns -- and those concerns are reviewed, prioritized and resolved.

In denying the petition, DOE agreed with the majority of comments submitted that pointed out existing regulations already protect and encourage employees who raise concerns, and that the proposal would fail to provide any new protections not currently in place.

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