Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram
Search the site


Download our FREE eResource: Specifier's Choice Guide. Get it now.

Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Chilled Safety Culture Draws NRC Fines

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More items for Health & Safety

Comment | More

A “chilled work environment” prevented nuclear facility employees from raising safety concerns about flawed rebar—a serious safety shortcoming that has prompted fines against Chicago Bridge & Iron for its recently acquired Shaw Group subsidiary.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a notice of violation and proposed a total civil penalty of $36,400 against Chicago Bridge & Iron for discriminating against an employee who raised safety concerns at one of the company's newly purchased Shaw subsidiaries.

The NRC doubled the normal civil penalties because Shaw did not identify the violations or take corrective action, the agency said Friday (April 19).

CB&I nuclear
Photos: CB&I

CB&I received a notice of violation and civil penalty of $36,400 for having a "chilled work environment" that stifled employee complaints about safety issues for fear of retaliation.

The NRC also urged CB&I to take action to improve safety culture at a second former Shaw subsidiary.

The separate actions, issued April 18, stem from complaints filed with the NRC before CB&I completed an acquisition of the Shaw Group companies in February.

Before the acquisition, Shaw was a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Baton Rouge with about 25,000 employees and $6 billion in FY2012 revenue. Shaw provided engineering, construction, maintenance, technology, fabrication, remediation and support services for clients in the energy, chemicals, environmental, infrastructure and emergency response industries.

2 Violations

In May 2011, the violation says, a quality assurance supervisor was fired for notifying Shaw and Louisiana Energy Services, an NRC licensee, that some potentially faulty rebar may bave been shipped to its National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico by a third-party vendor, the violation states.

Shaw Group HQ
Wikimedia Commons

CB&I acquired the Shaw Group in February. The complaints involve activities before the sale. Shaw was headquartered (pictured) in Baton Rouge, LA.

The second violation stems from language in Shaw's Corporate Code of Conduct that could "prohibit, restrict, or otherwise discourage employees from participating in protected activities," including providing information to the NRC.

The company has 30 days to respond and describe corrective actions it intends to implement. The company may request alternative dispute resolution for settlement options.

The company must also inform employees about the letter and corrective actions. NRC has instructed CB&I to provide:

  • Steps to ensure that individuals can raise safety and quality concerns without fear of retaliation;
  • Plans describing how CB&I will communicate expectations and policies needed to maintain a safety-conscious work environment;
  • Measures to assess the effectiveness of employee training and for monitoring the development and maintenance of a safety-conscious work environment; and
  • A report on whether The Shaw Group Inc.'s corporate Employee Concerns Program was aware that a chilled environment existed and on changes being made to remedy the chilled environment.

Company to 'Take Immediate Action'

"We take these matters very seriously," Gentry Brann, VP of Global Communications and Marketing for CB&I, said in an email Monday (April 22).

"CB&I will take immediate action to create and promote a healthy safety culture, where all employees feel open to identify issues and express concerns," Brann said.

"Our uncompromising focus is on safety, quality and an open work environment. It is not only CB&I's policy, but our practice."

'Not Free to Raise Safety Concerns'

In a separate letter to Philip K. Asherman, president and CEO of CB&I, the NRC noted a "chilled work environment" at the Lake Charles, LA, facility, formerly known as Shaw Modular Solutions (SMS). According to NRC, workers have reported safety concerns directly to NRC because they were hesistant to go through company channels.

"[P]ortions of the SMS workforce, especially employees with nuclear and quality control backgrounds, have the perception that they are not free to raise safety concerns using all available avenues," said the letter, written by Glenn M. Tracy, director of the Office of New Reactors.

In February 2012, the letter said, Synergy Consulting Services conducted a safety-conscious work environment (SCWE) assessment for SMS.

Results indicated that 27 percent of respondents weren't confident they could raise a qualtiy concern without fear of retaliation; 30 percent said they knew of someone who had experienced negative reaction from management after raising quality concerns; and 37 percent said they did not believe that the SMS discipline policy was appropriate or fair.

NRC fines

CB&I responded to the allegations, saying the company "will take immediate action."

Additionally, results indicated that employees lacked trust in management, with trust decreasing further up the management chain. Forty percent said senior management had not earned their trust.

Those results "demonstrate higher negative response rates than industry norms," the letter said.

"We caution that it is important for SMS and its successor CB&I to recognize that chilling 'messages' have been perceived by workers at the SMS facility in recent years," Tracy wrote.

"Importantly, management must be committed to eliminate situations that detract from developing and maintaining a strong safety-conscious work environment."

'Significant' Number of Concerns

From January 2010 to January 2013, 35 percent of all vendor-related safety allegations involved the Lake Charles facility, NRC said. There are more than 600 vendors supplying nuclear safety-related goods and services.

The NRC said it had received allegations during this time frame that included:

  • 13 allegations that raised 19 separate concerns related to a safety-conscious work environment at SMS;
  • 54 vendor-related allegations;
  • 10 concerns alleging a chilling affect; and
  • Nine concerns alleging retaliation after safety concerns were raised.

While the NRC's review of the complaints didn't identify specific quality issues, the "significant number of employee concerns ... suggests a poor environment for raising safety concerns within the company."

"The NRC takes seriously the ability of employees to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation, and employee protection from discrimination," said Tracy.

Tracy acknowledged that CB&I was implementing management changes at the former Shaw companies and said, "It is vital to assess the work environment and address unresolved conflicts."

Former Shaw Safety Fraud

On April 11, a former Shaw Group safety manager, Walter Cardin, was sentenced to 78 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for eight counts of major fraud against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). 

A federal jury heard evidence that Cardin lied about injuries at the Brown's Ferry Nuclear Site in Athens, AL, and provided bogus information about injuries at the Sequoyah Nuclear Site in Soddy Daisy, TN, and at Watts Bar Nuclear SIte near Spring City, TN.

Cardin was convicted of generating false injury rates, which the Shaw Group used to collect more than $2.5 million in safety bonuses from TVA.


Tagged categories: Acquisitions; Health and safety; Nuclear Power Plants; Regulations; Whistle blowing

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Clemco Industries Corp.
Maximum Dust Suppression Systems Start at $14,950
The system comprises proven technology and equipment with user-friendly flexibility in mind. See it in action.

Detail Masters
Overspray Removal
We offer professional, turnkey service and unparalleled quality!
Our process can save hundreds— even thousands of dollars. It's fast, environmentally safe and 100% guaranteed.

SAFE Systems, Inc.
Portable Dust Collectors for Tough Environments
Trailer and skid-mounted models in numerous sizes, powered by electric and/or diesel. Sloped roofs, multiple dust inlets, high static, dampered fans. Lockable power & drive compartments.

SABRE Autonomous Solutions
Safety, Productivity, Quality. Robotic Blasting
Learn how this simple to use, field deployed, automatic robot is eliminating hazards in major confined, cluttered and complex surface preparation projects.

Novatek Corporation
Novatek Corporation, Dustless Coatings Removal
Strip, clean and profile all dust free! Comply with new lead standards. Contact today: (866) 563-7800

The Next Generation
of Blasting
• Lightest
• Coolest
• Most Comfortable
• Most Dependable

Sidewinder/Persyst Enterprises, Inc.
The Sidewinder Model M2 Solvent Recycler
Combat the rising cost of gunwash, thinners, acetone & more while drastically reducing waste disposal coat.

Blastox/The TDJ Group, Inc.
Blastox® - One Step Lead Abatement
Sandblast additive delivered to jobsite pre-blended to eliminate hazardous abrasive wastes. Why mix, meter or apply at the job-site? Blast with ease and
Let your painters paint!

Carboline Company
Fireproofing Solutions
Pyroclad® X1 Thermo-Lag® Pyrocrete® – protecting against hydrocarbon and jet fires, explosions, and cryogenic spills.

Jotun Paints Inc.
Jotachar JF750 - The Time Saving Solution
The only mesh free solution for jet fire scenarios. Jotachar saves installation time and material costs - the next generation of epoxy passive fire protection.


Technology Publishing Co., 2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL

The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us