Work is temporarily halted on plant to destroy chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot

gkocher1@herald-leader.comMay 3, 2012 

Construction stopped Thursday but will resume Monday on the Madison County plant that will destroy chemical weapons. The "pause" was taken to review safety procedures and practices in the wake of several incidents and "near misses," according to a news release from the office that provides public information about the project at Blue Grass Army Depot.

Two incidents involved cuts and bruises, and two others involved incidents "where someone could have been hurt," said the release from the Bluegrass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in Richmond.

In one incident, a pair of pliers fell from an elevated space, and in the other a worker drove a piece of heavy equipment over a wood pallet, said George Rangel, spokesman for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, the general contractor on the plant's construction.

"Worker, public and environmental safety is of the highest importance, even if it means temporarily stopping construction to refocus everyone on the message — and our goal of zero accidents," Tom McKinney, project manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, said in a written statement.

Nearly 400 construction workers stopped work Thursday and were released following a workforce meeting. The workers will return to their jobs Monday.

During the pause, supervisors and non-manual employees remained at the construction site to review safety procedures and practices and to prepare for a safety-focused meeting for the nearly 500 workers on Monday.

After Monday's meeting, construction workers will resume activities in a phased approach. Initial activities will include evaluating work areas to organize excess materials, tools and equipment that could pose potential safety hazards.

The plant will eventually destroy 523 tons of munitions containing blister and nerve agents.

Last year the plant site earned one of the highest recognitions for a worker-safety program from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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