Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nuclear Safety Culture: Another Incident at Pilgrim: Tailgate Party

Pilgrim
The Cape Cod Times recently reported* on a security violation at the Pilgrim nuclear plant: one employee entering a secure area facilitated “tailgating” by a second employee who had forgotten his badge.  He didn’t want to go to Security to obtain clearance for entry because that would make him late for work.

The NRC determined the pair were deliberately taking a shortcut but were not attempting to do something malicious.  The NRC investigation also revealed that other personnel, including security, had utilized the same shortcut in the past to allow workers to exit the plant.  The result of the investigation was a Level IV violation for the plant.

Of course, the plant’s enemies are on this like a duck on a June bug, calling the incident alarming and further evidence for immediate shutdown of the plant.  Entergy, the plant’s owner, is characterized as indifferent to such activities. 

The article’s high point was reporting that the employee who buzzed in his fellow worker told investigators “he did not know he was not allowed to do that”.

Our Perspective 


The incident itself was a smallish deal, not a big one.  But it does score a twofer because it reflects on both safety culture and security culture.  Whichever category it goes in, the incident is a symptom of a poorly managed plant and a culture that has long tolerated shortcuts.  It is one more drop in the bucket as Pilgrim shuffles** toward the exit.

This case raises many questions: What kind of training, including refresher training, does staff receive about security procedures?  What kind of oversight, reminders, reinforcement and role modeling do they get from their supervisors and higher-level managers?  Why was the second employee reluctant to take the time to follow the correct procedure?  Would he have been disciplined, or even fired, for being late?  We would hope Pilgrim management doesn’t put everyone who forgets his badge in the stocks, or worse.

Bottom line: Feel bad for the people who have to work in the Pilgrim environment, be glad it’s not you or your workplace.


*  C. Legere, “NRC: Pilgrim workers ‘deliberately’ broke rules,” Cape Cod Times (July 24, 2017).  Retrieved July 26, 2017

**  In this instance, “shuffle” has both its familiar meaning of “dragging one's feet” and a less-used definition of “avoid a responsibility or obligation.”  Google dictionary retrieved July 27, 2017.

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