Safety remains the top priority as workers at the Blue Grass plant close in on the historic destruction of the last chemical weapons in storage at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.
“We’re not focused on [destruction] numbers, we’re not doing a daily countdown, we’re talking about safe execution every day,” said Ron Hink, project manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, during a recent public meeting. “We’re taking frequent pauses. This is the time to focus even more on safe operations because it’s easy to get distracted.”
“We are laser-focused during this critical time,” said Dr. James Watson, deputy program executive officer, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, during the same meeting. “Safety will remain the foundation of everything we do.”
Workers at the plant have maintained an excellent safety record, said Hink. He reported that in the 12-month reporting period ending May 31, the project’s recordable incident rate was .36 which is lower than the industry average for people working in banks, churches or retail stores.
Workers have gone almost 11.5 million hours and more than 1,300 days without a lost-time accident as of May 31, he noted.
“My hat is off to the men and women out there who are doing it. It is remarkable,” Hink said.
M55 rockets containing GB nerve agent make up the last munitions destruction campaign at the Blue Grass plant. Plant staff use the term campaign to describe the destruction of a particular type of chemical munition. The Blue Grass team previously completed four other destruction campaigns.
Watson said safety will continue to be the program’s top priority during the plant’s closure phase, which is estimated to take 3 to 4 years and start once the end of chemical weapons destruction operations is declared.