Senators add protections for Hanford workers to budget bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 25, 2017) — Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state announced Monday that they have secured new provisions in the Fiscal Year 2018 Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill to address ongoing concerns about workers in or near the tank farms at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation being exposed to chemical vapors.

One provision urges the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to continue implementing recommendations from the 2014 Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment Report, and to move forward with recommendations from three subsequent reviews conducted by DOE’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Enterprise Assessments, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. A second provision would direct DOE to work with contractors, labor unions, and the State of Washington to establish a resource center to provide education and advocacy to current and former Hanford employees on all available Federal and State compensation programs to support workers who are injured on the job.

The bill containing the two provisions passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations and now moves to the full Senate.

“While continued progress at Hanford is important, it should never come at the expense of workers’ health and safety,” Murray said. “I’m encouraged to see these important provisions pass this hurdle, and I will fight to make sure the Trump administration does everything in its power to put safety first and provide Hanford workers the health care and benefits they deserve.”

“Workers at Hanford deserve the most stringent possible precautions in place as they make progress on the clean-up,” Cantwell said. “The measures that Senator Murray and I were able to include in the 2018 Appropriations bill will help make progress towards that important goal, and I look forward to seeing them become law.”

Both senators have been pushing for improved worker safety protections at Hanford. In December of last year, both senators called on then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to implement new worker safety recommendations and quickly sent the same message to Secretary Rick Perry upon his confirmation in March. In March, the senators also urged DOE’s Office of the Inspector General to look into employee concerns with the workers’ compensation claims process at Hanford, which the Inspector General has agreed to investigate.

In addition, the senators are pushing the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure current and former Hanford workers receive the health care and benefits they deserve and have earned through their dedicated service to the United States.

Murray is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a senior member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Cantwell is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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