Environmental, Safety & Health Compliance System pays off for Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Courtesy of IHS

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), one of ten national laboratories managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, is a world leader in scientific research. Its scientists are known for their work in nuclear and high-energy physics; environmental and energy research; neurosciences, medical imaging, structural biology and nano-technology. BNL conducts research that enhances people's lives and the world in which we live.

Brookhaven National Laboratory strives to achieve these same goals of sustainability and excellence at its campus in Long Island, NY, where it hosts over 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff and 4,000 researchers annually in a small town of approximately 400 buildings and 25,000 pieces of equipment. In order to better protect its people and the environment, BNL has implemented a powerful, integrated environmental, safety and health information (ES&H) system -- Compliance Suite software from ESS.

Industrial Hygiene and Safety Audits on Demand

Brookhaven's ES&H team uses Compliance Suite software for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recordkeeping and other reporting requirements. BNL has implemented ESS modules for safety, auditing, industrial hygiene and job hazard analysis as well as an interface to Crystal Reports for custom reports, said Ken Erickson, Industrial Hygienist and Data Manager in Safety & Health Services at BNL.

DOE is a self-regulating agency and it requires that Brookhaven National Laboratory comply with OSHA and EPA regulations. In October 2006, BNL participated in a wall-to-wall inspection of its entire site for almost four weeks by 20 OSHA inspectors who identified approximately 5,000 corrective actions. Data on each of the observations, their location, audit details and resulting corrective actions were entered into and tracked through Compliance Suite by Safety & Health Services personnel.

As a result, BNL was able to begin estimating costs for each corrective action while the OSHA audit was still ongoing. Compliance Suite gave the ES&H team the ability to share audit data across the site, including Brookhaven's Plant Engineering Division, which was responsible for conducting the cost estimates. ES&H representatives from each department were also able to view data and reports on the findings throughout the entire inspection and abatement process.

The ES&H department's timely response allowed Brookhaven to meet or exceed DOE reporting deadlines and successfully compete for $2 million of $6 million appropriated by Congress in 2004 for hazard remediation of DOE laboratory sites.

'As the requirements were piled on top of us, we were able to develop customized fields as we needed them to answer DOE's questions,' Erickson said. 'If we didn't have the Audit Management module, we would not have been able to respond in a timely fashion to meet DOE's deadline'. Erickson also added that because Brookhaven was inspected after most of the other laboratories, the lab had even less time to prepare for the same deadline.

Location is Key to Stressors and Exposures

BNL's IH team also uses Compliance Suite software to comply with DOE requirement 851 by identifying and sampling all stressor activities – chemical, noise or ergonomic. Failure to comply could result in fines for the lab of $20,000 per unsampled incident.

While stressors can be linked to a person, stated Erickson it is more effective to think of them as linked to a place. 'You want to nail them down by location not the person,' he said. 'More often than not, in mechanical rooms and chemical processes in large facilities, stressors occur within the workflow.'

Preserving Safety Through Accountability

BNL has begun a risk ranking system to prioritize corrective actions based on threats to safety. A unique field has been developed for these codes in BNL's ESS audit software so hazards that present a risk to employees are tracked and mitigated immediately through administrative or temporary means until full abatement can be effected. Erickson routinely checks on the status of abatements with experts in electrical operations, plant engineering, maintenance and safety engineering, as well as individual departmental Environmental, Safety & Health Coordinators and building managers.

'I am able to control all of the data from a central point, all while these departments are contributing, editing and providing reports to their departments' management on the issues they are responsible for,' he said. 'I have the ability to restrict the data viewed and entered through Compliance Suite so our users can do what they need to do and know: no more, no less.'

Enhancing BNL Refrigerant Compliance

In 1994, BNL began documenting refrigerant inventory and losses via dBase Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software. But a surprise EPA audit of BNL's refrigerant management program in May 1997 identified gaps in the laboratory's refrigerant management practices. The audit revealed that BNL needed a more sophisticated approach to managing refrigeration equipment service records to ensure compliance with EPA regulations.

As a result, BNL implemented Compliance Suite Refrigerant Compliance Management Software (RCMS) from ESS. RCMS allows BNL managers to maintain comprehensive data on refrigerant inventory, technician certification, refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment and service/repair orders. Brookhaven's system, which was purchased in 1997 and has been upgraded several times since then, has served its purpose very well according to BNL staff.

'ESS' RCMS enabled us to build a database that contains information on our refrigerants inventory, certified technicians, refrigerant recovery/recycling equipment, and on work orders for service and repairs of all refrigeration and air conditioning equipment,' says Peter Palamidis, Preventative Maintenance Coordinator for BNL. 'The query and reporting functions of the software make it easy for us to compute refrigeration leak rates, manage equipment, track technician training and access service and repair records to satisfy regulatory documentation requirements for EPA inspection.'

BNL managers also use RCMS work order fields as links to its CMMS software. This makes reporting easier and eliminates redundant data entry – saving time and promoting data integrity.

In addition, ESS' refrigerant compliance experts helped BNL develop a plan that summarizes EPA requirements and details roles and responsibilities for all BNL staff. BNL also utilizes ESS training to help technicians stay up to date on changes in EPA regulatory requirements.

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