An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our signal in Bonners Ferry and Omak is seriously impaired due to weather— Learn more here.

Former Hanford Workers Claim Dangerous Pranks, Falsified Reports

Walt Ford, right, at a U.S. Department of Labor hearing in Kennewick, Washington, Tuesday.
Anna King, Northwest News Network
Walt Ford, right, at a U.S. Department of Labor hearing in Kennewick, Washington, Tuesday.

Several former Hanford construction workers testified in a U.S. Department of Labor hearing in Kennewick Tuesday, saying managers at the nuclear site played dangerous pranks that ended in workers with bloodied fingers, an injured knee, a hurt arm and glue smeared across the face. 

The huge under-construction Hanford Waste Treatment Plant is intended to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste. Several construction workers -- who set up and maintain large cranes, cables and other important machinery – say they’ve been bullied at that job site.

Attorneys for the contractors will have the chance to lay out their side this week.

Walt Ford, who was laid off in 2011, is asking for lost wages and emotional damages fromHanfordcontractors Bechtel andURS. Ford claims he was laid off because he was raising safety concerns with managers and that he hasn’t been able to get other work, after being labeled as a whistleblower.

Another millwright construction worker testified he saw a manager falsifying a set of important work reports and was tripped by a manager, hurting his knee while at work.

All three millwrights who testified Tuesday said when they were working they felt that if they raised safety concerns through Hanford’s established non-retaliatory reporting programs they would be targeted for pranks and management retaliation anyway.

Other URS employees have come forward with safety concerns at Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant too--most notably Walter Tamosaitis, who was a high-level safety manager for URS on the Waste Treatment Plant.

Tamosaitis claimed there were design problems with major radioactive waste mixing vessels installed at the plant and that faulty design could cause explosions. Several of his claims have been investigated by the U.S. Department of Energy at the highest levels. Since then, technical issues with the plant have slowed construction and altered the design for the overall plant. Tamosaitis ultimately settled his case last year for $4.1 million.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.