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The New Project Safety Review Process

This gas cabinet serving the Linac Coherent Light Source AMO instrument was among the first projects installed as a test of the new process.

A little over a year ago, Chief Safety Officer Craig Ferguson raised one of the first major issues for discussion in the new Environment, Safety & Health Subcouncil: pursuing an effective and streamlined project review process at SLAC. The motivation was to provide consistent, value-added reviews of projects, regardless of type (experimental, civil construction, etc.)

A new process was implemented on a trial basis in March, with the guiding principles of strengthening line management's responsibility for project safety, appointing safety officers and subject matter experts for various hazard types, and maximizing its integration with the work planning and control program. It also clarifies the role of the principal investigator/project manager, Building Inspection Office, safety officers and coordinators, subject matter experts, as well as the safety committees, the Safety Overview Committee—or SOC—and line managers themselves.

The new review process is the product of many months of often tumultuous and colorful debate between stakeholders, but this dialog enhanced the final process recommended by the ES&H Subcouncil. The Subcouncil formed sub-committees to develop review processes for "conventional projects" and "experimental (non-conventional) projects" with the underlying principle that line managers are responsible for the safety of their projects, consistent with SLAC's Integrated Safety and Environmental Management System, and that the tools should be available to help them fulfill this responsibility.

The ES&H Subcouncil recognized that fundamental changes and clarifications were needed in the roles of staff involved in the review process, including those for safety coordinators, safety officers, subject matter experts and project managers, to ensure that they engage in the early stage of planning to determine the level of reviews needed. For those projects meeting certain thresholds, a newly formed SOC will be engaged for oversight. The number of projects actually coming before the SOC for review is expected to be greatly reduced if the new process is followed correctly. A final outcome of the Subcouncil's evaluation is to define the role of existing Citizen Safety Committees, many of which will serve as advisory committees to safety officers having approval authority. All of these entities are available to support project managers to help ensure proper project safety reviews. The process is described in Chapter 1 of the ES&H Manual. Its success relies on oversight by line managers to ensure the process is followed properly.

While much effort by your ES&H Subcouncil representatives has resulted in this new review process, we expect it will not be perfect in its first implementation. Consequently SLAC will "test drive" the process over the next six months, collect feedback, and, together with the Subcouncil, make revisions as needed. Everyone at SLAC involved with project work is encouraged to discuss the new process with your directorate Subcouncil member(s). Our goal is to end up with a process that ensures consistent, timely, thorough project safety reviews

óBob Hettel and Craig Ferguson
SLAC Today, April 15, 2010