TO:Board of Directors, Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant/Department of Energy FROM:Kathleen Hayes, Consultant for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant/Department of Energy DATE:17 November 2012
RE:Notification of Potentially Hazardous Working Conditions and Worker Health Introduction
Ethical and moral issues have been brought into question when determining the proper protocol when informing employees of potential health risks while on the job. Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the Department of Energy have been accused of failing to notify workers of the potentially hazardous exposure to radiation and the health risks they would be facing. Recommendations will be made for the Plant/Department of Energy and discuss the importance ethical responsibility and treatment of employees. Proper notification and steps to make sure vital information is communicated is beneficial to both worker health and corporate/government responsibility. Facts Summary
Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, owned by the Department of Energy, exposed several thousand uranium workers to plutonium and other radioactive material. This same material had also been dumped into landfills and fields which caused exposure to wildlife and private water wells. Records on plutonium contamination were kept but the plant never disclosed the potential health risks to the workers. Due to their lack of knowledge, the workers did not wear sufficient protection while working with the hazardous materials. The records kept indicate the high levels of radiation found within the plant and that plutonium had been found up to one mile from the plant. The plant maintained that there were insignificant amounts of plutonium and that the exposure to the workers was too small to cause health risks. The government’s stand on this was contradicted by internal documents and records kept by management indicating the level of radiation exposure were a concern for the workers and the environment. Recent studies have shown that the workers in this plant have experienced higher rates of cancers from the radiation they were exposed to. Workers uphold that they should have been made aware of any possible health risk regardless of how high or low the levels of radiation were. In 1999, the government announced they would provide compensation packages to the workers which included covering medical costs, lost wages, and job retraining. Along with worker compensation, new environmental cleanup programs for the region would be enacted. Ethical Dilemma
Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is faced with the dilemma of informing the employees of the workplace dangers and screening the workers for exposure to radioactive materials, such as plutonium, and potentially risk negative public image and higher labor costs or continuing with their practices and put workers and the environment at greater risk of exposure to the radiation. The solutions to the plant’s dilemma could certainly alleviate repercussions the plant will face by choosing the less ethical or moral solution. Ethical Issue
The plant’s failure to disclose to their workers the possibility of radiation exposure and the potential health risks that may ensue is a complete moral and ethical failure on their part. The dishonesty shown to its workers is one of the main ethical issues with the dilemma the plant faced. The plant declined to inform its workers of the potential risks involved with the job while at the same time keeping records indicating the clear environmental damage that had been occurring due to the radiation exposure. The plant kept this information from the workers while insisting the level of exposure was insignificant and too small to pose a threat to their health. This dishonesty kept the workers from wearing the proper protection while being exposed to the radiation. The plant denied its workers of their right to know which took away their option to continue working in a hazardous work environment...