The first course—one that, unfortunately, all of us are familiar with—assumes that workers will always understand and follow procedures. It assumes that if procedures do not exist, the workers' experience will keep them out of harm's way and that good judgment will prevail in those hazardous situations that might be encountered. It has meant, for some managers, letting the subcontractors take care of themselves.
Taking care of safety, on the other hand, means accepting responsibility at every level for the workers on the ground and in the tunnel. It means identifying the hazards workers will face, training them for effectiveness, equipping them properly, and ensuring that they will be taken care of in emergencies.
What is both right and wrong with safety practices must be confronted to assure that past mistakes and past accidents will not be repeated. To accomplish this, the status quo (the convention that has us believe that ''it must be right, it's the way we've always done it'') must be challenged. Lessons from accidents and near-misses must be extracted and defensiveness or embarrassment must not preclude an honest and open exchange on future prevention. As safety professionals are apt to say, it is the only good thing that comes from an accident.
Worker safety and health has been given a very prominent place by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary. She has challenged DOE to demonstrate the leadership necessary to make excellence in safety and health the rule rather than the exception. Tangible actions have been taken to aggressively move the department from a largely reactive posture to one that establishes accident prevention as its goal and employee involvement as its mode of operation. A number of initiatives have been announced and are underway; two are discussed below.
The first initiative is contract reform. DOE is developing changes to its contracting process that will better define expectations, measure performance, improve incentives, and strengthen departmental management of contracts. This reform effort addresses significant issues, such as explicit consideration of the safety record of contractors, including subcontractors, who bid on DOE work. Also considered are performance criteria for safety and health built into contracts, providing both incentives and penalties for on-the-job performance. Yet another issue is the extent to which DOE will indemnify contractors for