BNFL’s tougher new work culture wins HSE’s praise

BNFL’s efforts to improve work culture and safety at
Sellafield nuclear plant over the past year have been acknowledged in an HSE
report released last week.

Sellafield’s HR team have driven forward a tough new work
culture seeking to instill self-discipline and responsibility among the
8,000-strong workforce.

The “zero tolerance” approach to wilful breaches of safety
was a response to three critical HSE reports in February 2000, and a media scandal
about the falsification of safety data. Staffing shortages and poor management
were among the criticisms.

Last summer BNFL, in co-operation with the unions, developed
new standards and expectations for its staff. They came into force on 1 August.

Peter Woolley, Sellafield’s head of HR and public affairs,
said, “We had to get the employees to understand that there were basic
standards of behaviour that would have to be met.”

The standards included adhering to 20mph limits at the site,
the proper use of access passes and consuming food in the right areas. In the
ensuing six months, 20 people were dismissed for non-compliance.

But Woolley admits that while the standards have gone a long
way to improving quality and safety standards at Sellafield, there has been a
price to pay.

He said, “It is medicine that needed to be taken but it has
not been very palatable. Morale is not high.”

The HR team recruited 400 additional staff and has
contributed to significant management restructuring. It is now targeting morale.

By Mike Broad

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