whistleblowerThe U.S. Department of Energy still has work to do to improve its own safety culture. That’s the upshot of a recent study on the federal agency that heads environmental cleanup of nuclear waste across the country, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

After repeated criticism by major government watchdogs, the Department of Energy conducted its own study to examine safety culture within its ranks. Hanford has been under particular scrutiny after several top-level whistleblowers questioned a $12 billion radioactive waste treatment plant being constructed now in Washington’s desert.

Although the energy department has been on a major campaign to improve its safety culture, the study found that most employees thought that term meant narrowly: industrial safety. The report says “… a poor sense of ownership and accountability for safety is problematic.”

The study also says, “Some senior managers indicated they do not perceive that they have any direct responsibilities for safety …” Others told researchers that they fear retaliation if they raise safety concerns.