April 20, 2007
Health & Safety
Bruce plant restart a mega-project
Nuclear plant prides itself on a safe workplace
With a $2.75 billion budget and a project workforce of 1,800, Bruce Power’s Bruce A Restart Project is like city unto itself.
“There are 178 projects on the go, with 30,000 individual tasks to be completed,” says Ralph Kothe, Manager, Bruce A Restart, Bruce Power.
“There’s no bigger project in Canada right now that one owner is undertaking, yet we haven’t had a single lost-time injury since the project began.”
In addition to traditional construction safety considerations, on-site hazards include radioactivity, hazardous chemicals, and energized systems.
The project’s safety strategy begins with an orientation session that takes place at an empty school leased for indoctrination training.
“Every employee receives some training here before they can set foot on the site,” says Kothe.
All workers who complete the training session are given orange radiation-detection badges which they must wear on site.
“Initially there were many zones on the premises that denoted different levels of radioactivity,” says Kothe. “We cleaned up the site to reduce the total number of zones to make it easier for workers to move between them and understand the differences. We didn’t want to make it so complex that we were setting them up for failure.”
While Bruce’s Units 1 and 2 are being prepared for re-start, the other units continue to operate. As much as possible, construction activity is limited to a construction island, separated from the operating nuclear units. Material and equipment travel freely through the zone without disturbing existing operations.
“We brought back 300 retired workers to increase our capacity to train the project staff,” he says.
Kothe notes that a significant number of recent retirements in the nuclear industry are a result of heavy investment in the sector through the late 1960s, through the early 1980s, followed by a significant decline.
Project managers also assist sub-contractors who want to keep their workforce relatively stable throughout the project to retain expertise, and minimize the training of new workers.
The magnitude and novelty of the project itself is occasionally a potential safety hazard as well. A massive Mammoet crane with a capacity of 1,600 tonnes was brought in to replace several 100-tonne boilers.
“When the crane goes into action, everyone feels like a kid again and they all want to proceed to the lift area,” says Kothe. “We have to consider the logistics of how many people can safely be allowed to get close to the lift area.”
The project has had its share of minor injuries but nothing major to date. Workers who experience a minor injury usually return to work shortly after the incident, although some are returned to light duty.
“If a worker experiences an injury, no matter how minor, the incident is reported to all groups working on the project.
“There were 11 people killed in activities related to the original construction of the plant,” says Kothe.
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