Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Letters to the Editor from the March, 2005 Physics Today


Thank you Brad Holian for sticking with this. Dave Herbert and Lee McAtee are paid to support the director. While I think it is obvious that there was not a case to shut down the lab if you look soberly at the numbers, there remains the problem of the director trashing all the employees, cratering the housing market and so on. If he "cared" about employees he wouldn't have done this. It seems more believable that the director has a serious anger-management problem and an out of control ego and that his intemperant actions were the result. I wish he would do the honorable thing and simply resign and move on and let us get on with picking up all the pieces of this seriously broken laboratory. We really cannot heal at all while he is here. One man is not more important than this institution. He screwed up royally and should have the decency at this point to step aside.
Perhaps Lee McAtee and/or Dave Herbert can address the following:

Posted on all LANL bulletin boards is a memorandum from Brad Gallimore, HSR-5. The subject is Annual Posting of OSHA 300A Summary. THe OSHA Form 300A contains a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses for calendar year 2004. This form is attached to the memorandum.

The following information is included on the form:

Number of Cases

Total Number of deaths 0
Total Number of cases with days
away from work 4
Total number of cases with job
transfer restriction 114
Total number of other recordable
cases 149

Number of Days

Total number of days away from work 21
Total number of days of job transfer
or restriction 2084

Injury and Illness Types

Injuries 267
Skin Disorders 0
Respiratory conditions 0
Poisonings 0
Hearing loss 0
All other illnesses 0

Annual average number of
employees 9,072
Total hours worked by all
employees last year 18,144,907

The number of days away from work and number of days of job transfer or restriction in hours is 16,840. Isn't this about 1/10 of a percent of the total hours worked by all employees last year? How can this be so terrible?

This form was signed by J. Lee McAtee, HSR Division Leader on Jan 27, 2005. Why does this form list 267 injuries while Nanos' email said 322? Where did the number 322 come from? Where are the other 55 injuries documented? Are these people whose injuries were not reported to OSHA because they were caused by employees slipping and falling on the ice before they even reached their offices?

This is clearly not a problem for the Director since he has his own parking place in the lot on the south side of the Ad building which is probably first on the list of parking lots that are cleaned after a storm. As in the US Navy, "Rank has its privileges" is alive and well at LANL. Too bad "rank has its responsibilities" is not.

No one wants to see anyone injured as the student was last summer. However, the employees doing the work are the ones who should be intimately involved in developing the safety rules. Safety should be taught bottom up, not top down, because it takes far too long to get the message to the employees who really need it. And safety is not just a matter of a written SOP, manuals full of rules and regulations, etc. It's a way of thinking no matter where you are or what you are doing. But safety does not mean that employees drive to work on a snowy day just to sit in their cars because parking lots are not cleaned so they can't get to work safely. Getting employees safely into their work places is the Director's responsibility. Doing the work safely is the employee's responsibility. Defining what safely is is the responsibility of the employees doing the task and their manager.
It is also the Director's responsibility to fix all the broken pavement and tripping hazards around the lab as he promised in his first speech to employees. He still hasn't done it. That responsibility should have been delegated to Lee McAtee. He has not done it either.

Words mean nothing. When upper management starts fixing all the safety and security hazards -- which require money and personnel to repair, employees will believe management is really safety conscious. Let's see those parking lots and sidewalks cleared of snow. Let's have delays when roads are snowy and frozen. Let's remove the hazards. Removing hazards from the environment will solve the problems -- not punishing employees who have accidents.
Nanos could care less if one of the people at the lab where hurt. He hates the people at LANL. The lab is less safe and less secure thanks to him.
The potholes that now characterize LANL roadways are symptomatic of a leadership that is more focused on its own survival than the safety of its people. One saw this same situation in Moscow thoroughfares just before that oppressive regime fell. The point is that one can find hope and promise even in potholes.
One of the posters had it correct in that Herbert is paid to support the Direktor. Herbert is a conman. He is one of our high priced consultants who runs this scan that more training is better training. His objective, which he has successfully accomplished, is to maximize the consultant income that he receives from LANL.
We need to be a little more careful here. Dave Herbert is a very reasonable professional. He does not deserve to be defamed just because his opinion piece is cited by management. Read it carefully. It does not decry or support the shutdown; it only says that we (anyone!) can always do better. I read him to support Brad's conclusion, without quite saying so.
Come on now, let's stick to real issues. Potholes appear everywhere this time of the year. In some areas robins are the first sign of Spring. In northern New Mexico robins have been replaced by potholes. There are no more potholes now than there were five years ago except possibly where the guard is posted on Bikini Road. That roadway was probably never built for the amount of traffic it now sees.

Although there are serious problems at LANL that can be directly attributable to Nanos, the appearance of potholes is not one of them.
The letters by Lee McAtee and Dave Herbert should have never been sent in to Physics Today. Brad Holian refuted every fact, causing the exchange to be an embarrassment of LANL in front of the whole physics community. When is management just going to get over the fact they lied and move on?
I would respectfully like to point out to the previous poster that Director Nanos does NOT equal LANL--he may think he is, but he's not. In fact, let it be known that the whole upper management superstructure that serves him is not LANL either.

In principle, the job of management at Los Alamos is to serve the people under them by facilitating high quality science. If the behavior of upper managers is an embarrassment, let us not say that LANL as an institution is embarrassed. Let's keep the two--LANL and its temporary management--separate; the people who work in the trenches are the ones who really make this institution.

On that score, I am convinced that, through all this mess we, the staff members and workers at LANL, will ultimately prevail.

-Brad Lee Holian
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