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An environmental consultant firm contracted to help remediate a former nuclear-weapons production facility in Washington state has recently won a top safety award for creating a system to make trench-digging safer.
Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) won its sixth Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Innovation Award, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday, for its design of a dirt-removing conveyor belt that lessens the possibility of worker injuries while also increasing efficiency more than 50%. WRPS operates at the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, which produced plutonium for weapons production from 1943 until 1987, according to the DOE.
Steve Killoy, WRPS environmental, safety, health, and quality manager, said the awards "reflect what we stand for at WRPS," according to the announcement.
“This solution increased worker safety and task efficiency, and reduced schedule time and project costs," Killoy said. "By working together at all levels of the organization and with our subcontractors, we improved safety and efficiency while advancing our important mission.”
The soil-conveyor system developed by WRPS removes tons of earth from around old equipment buried in a tank-storage area, the announcement reports. Previously workers had to dig seven-foot-deep trenches by hand to get to the buried equipment.
“The development of this tool is critical to improving worker safety, involving the workforce, and increasing task efficiencies at the tank farms on the Hanford Site,” Ricky Bang, a director with the DOE's Office of River Protection, said in the announcement.
This was the sixth Innovation Award for WRPS, which also received its eighth VPP Star of excellence award for sustaining an injury and illness rate 75% or more below the industry average, the DOE reports. The contractor has also received awards in previous years for various technologies from ways to reduce heat stress to reducing worker exposure during radiological surveys, according to the DOE.