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SLAC Safety Review

In August, the Department of Energy (DOE) will conduct a review of SLAC safety programs. For the past several years, SLAC has adopted a strong, formal approach to creating a safe work environment. This program, known as the Integrated Safety and Environment Management System (ISEMS), was reviewed previously by the DOE to validate its content. From August 4–15, five to seven DOE representatives will return to SLAC for the annual review to assess how well we are implementing the safety (non-environmental) aspects of our ISEMS. SLAC staff can view the plan for this review on SLAC Space.

This review offers an excellent opportunity to remind laboratory staff about ISEMS. As the first in a series of ISEMS refresher articles, this story describes the overall program and its five core functions and seven guiding principles. Daily articles next week will cover each of the five core functions in more detail, one core function each day, with relevant examples to help illustrate each function's intent.

  The Five Core Functions

The key logo for ISEMS (above right) is a circle diagram with 5 steps to show how the process is on-going and will feed directly into the next project. When safety and environmental management is truly "integrated" into our work, the process runs smoothly and continuously. Each of the five arrows in the logo represents a core function. 

Core Function

Question to Ask


1. Define scope

What do I want to do?

In this step, take your assignment (or mission) and look at what you need to do to accomplish it. You should set your expectations (what do you expect to accomplish?), identify tasks to be done (and prioritize them), and find out what resources are needed. During the scope, don't forget to review any safety or environmental policies or compliance that will need to be followed.

2. Analyze hazards

What are the risks of doing it?

Very closely tied with the scope, in this step you will look at everything identified in the scope and figure out if there are any hazards associated with the job. Are any of the tasks hazardous (to either people or the environment) in themselves? Do the resources you will use have their own hazards (such as power tools or lasers)? Did you come across policies you'll have to follow? Analyze the various hazards you found, and see if you can categorize them for easier control.

3. Control for hazards

How can I control those risks?

Now that you know the hazards, you can plan for how you can do your work safely (for both people and the environment). This is where those policies you found earlier come in useful. Many ES&H policies also come with guidance and procedures on how to safety carry out tasks. There is also usually a program manager assigned to each topic to help you. With the aid of the policies and the people, you can identify which standards and requirements apply to your job, figure out controls to prevent (or mitigate as much as we can) the hazards, and then set them up.

4. Perform work

Do it (controlling for risks)

You double-check that you are ready to work, and then do the job. While on the job, work within the controls you set up to protect people and the environment. Appropriate emergency guidelines are also followed.

5. Feedback and improvement

Evaluate performance. How can I do better next time?

When you're done, you're not quite done. An important part of your job is feedback and evaluation. This step loops you back to the top of the circle so you can more easily and safely do your next job. After the job, collect information on how well the controls helped for mitigating hazards, check if there are ways you can improve the definition and planning of work (and note them down for the next scope process), find out if line and independent oversight was conducted, and, if necessary, regulatory enforcement actions need to occur. Post-work also includes any environmental measurement and monitoring that's needed.

  The Seven Guiding Principles

The system of integrating safety and environmental management into our work has seven guiding principles. These are ideas that we believe in at SLAC, and if we adopt them into our regular way of thinking and doing, they will make us all safer. As we go about our work, sometimes it can be helpful to ask ourselves, "does this follow our guiding principles?"

Guiding Principle

The Idea Behind It

1. Line management responsibility for safety

Line management is directly responsible for the protection of the public, the workers and the environment. This principle is followed in such ways as setting up reviews and checks in which line managers make sure they understand the work being performed and are familiar with the steps that need to be taken to complete the ISMS Core Function process during the work.

2. Clear roles and responsibilities

Clear and unambiguous lines of authority and responsibility for ensuring safety shall be established and maintained at all organizational levels. Guidance documents, policies, procedures and routines should all follow this principle. If roles and responsibilities are clear, it is much easier to control hazards and follow regulations.

3. Competence commensurate with responsibilities

Personnel shall possess the experience, knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to discharge their responsibilities. Basically, we should know how to do our jobs. In Guiding Principle 1 (GP1) above, line management is responsible for making sure that GP3 is followed. Knowing all the steps in a job, and knowing what workers have been trained to do and can safely do, is important to assigning the right job to the right people. This is also where the SLAC Training Assessment is primarily involved with ISEMS, as a tool to help identify what training needs are for people.

4. Balanced priorities

Resources shall be effectively allocated to address safety, programmatic and operational considerations. Protecting the public, the workers and the environment shall be a priority whenever activities are planned and performed. Here at SLAC, we have specific funding for jobs, and other resources we can use are often defined by what else is going on. In our Core Function 1 (CF1; see 'The Five Core Functions' later in this article), when we scope our work, we should take our resources into account and plan how best to use them. By this principle, and by the published SLAC Safety Values, safety and the environment should be first on our list.

5. Identification of safety standards and requirements

Before work is performed, the associated hazards shall be evaluated. An agreed upon set of safety standards and requirements shall be established which, if properly implemented, will provide adequate assurance that the public, the workers, and the environment are protected from adverse consequences. This principle goes directly with CF1, CF2, and CF3 as inside scoping work we check for safety and environmental regulations and policies, and then use them in analyzing the hazards and making controls.

6. Hazard controls tailored to work performed

Administrative and engineering controls to prevent and mitigate hazards shall be tailored to the work being performed and associated hazards. This is very similar to CF3, Control for Hazards. What makes this a principle is the idea of tailoring the controls. When we think about what controls should be in place, sometimes it's easy to take an existing set from somewhere else and put it down as-is. But is this really following GP4 above? What if the controls are larger than the project, and more expensive as well? Or, alternatively, what if they are too little and the work is not as safe as it should be? We should always double-check our controls to make sure they're just what are needed for the task at hand.

7. Operations authorized

The conditions and requirements to be satisfied for operations to be initiated and conducted shall be clearly established and agreed-upon. Similar to GP1 and GP2, where we identify clear roles and make sure line management is involved, this principle should be practiced before CF4, where we perform the work and ties in with CF1 where scope takes place. Making sure that everybody is in agreement with the expectations of the job and the controls for hazards (CF3) often ensures that the work will proceed smoothly and there will be no unpleasant surprises at the end.

The complete Seven Guiding Principles and Five Core Functions can be found on the ES&H website. Upcoming articles will discuss each core function, beginning with core function 1 on Monday. If you have any questions, please contact Steve Frey at x3839.

Steven Frey, SLAC Today, July 25, 2008