[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 229 (Tuesday, November 30, 2010)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 73946-73947]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-30065]



10 CFR Part 851

Worker Safety and Health Program: Safety Conscious Work 

AGENCY: Office of the General Counsel, Department of Energy (DOE).

ACTION: Notice of denial of petition for rulemaking.


SUMMARY: The Department of Energy received a petition from the Hanford 
Challenge on August 18, 2009, requesting the initiation of a rulemaking 
regarding safety policies at DOE's nuclear facilities. The petition 
calls for DOE to establish by regulation a safety program using the 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ``Safety-Conscious Work Environment'' 
guidelines as a model. DOE published this petition and a request for 
comment on October 16, 2009. DOE denies the petition for rulemaking.

DATES: This notice is effective November 30, 2010.

Assistant Secretary, Safety Management and Operations, Environmental 
Management Office, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, 
SW., Washington, DC 20585-0121, (202) 586-2281, e-mail: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DOE received numerous comments in response 
to the notice of the Hanford Challenge petition for rulemaking, 
published on October 16, 2009. 74 FR 53190. The vast majority of those 
comments recommended denial of the petition, for two reasons. First, 
DOE already has numerous regulations in place to protect and encourage 
employees to raise work-related concerns. Second, not only would 
instituting a ``Safety-Conscious Work Environment'' by regulation be 
redundant, but it would also fail to add any additional protections not 
already in place. The comments DOE received in favor of the petition 
were generally related to the existing culture of safety and 
whistleblower protection. The main concern in these comments was that 
DOE facilities would be unsafe without an environment where employees 
could raise concerns without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
    After reviewing the existing protections, DOE agrees with the 
majority of the comments that granting the petition for rulemaking 
would be unnecessary. Currently, employee protection and safety 
programs exist in the following statutory and regulatory authorities: 
42 U.S.C. 5851, 10 CFR part 708, 10 CFR part 851, 29 CFR 1960.28, 48 
CFR 970.0309, and 29 CFR part 24, as well as numerous internal DOE 
orders and directives including DOE's Employee Concerns Program (DOE 
Order 442.1A) and Differing Professional Opinions Manual (DOE Manual 
442.1-1). These authorities provide sufficient guidance and protections 
in which employees can properly raise concerns that will be promptly 
reviewed and appropriately resolved with timely feedback.
    DOE denies the petition for rulemaking because the existing 
regulations provide legal protection to employees while adequately 
promoting worker involvement in raising and resolving concerns. 
Implementing the ``Safety-Conscious Work Environment'' would be 
redundant and would fail to add any substantive protections not 
currently in place. While the petitioner believes that the existing 
regulations are inadequate, neither DOE's internal review nor the 
comments submitted in response to the petition demonstrate that to be 
the case.
    Nevertheless, DOE recognizes that the existing authorities 
governing safety and employee protection programs can be diverse and 
confusing. In an attempt to provide as much clarity on this issue as 
possible, DOE has created a Web site summarizing the existing law and 
providing a central location consolidating all the relevant standards 
on this issue. This Web site can be accessed at: http://www.gc.energy.gov/1630.htm. The Department believes that this Web site 
will increase awareness of the existing protections for DOE employees 
and DOE contractors and will address the underlying concerns evident in 
the Hanford Challenge petition for rulemaking and the comments in 
support thereof.

[[Page 73947]]

    Issued in Washington, DC, on November 23, 2010.
Scott Blake Harris,
General Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2010-30065 Filed 11-29-10; 8:45 am]