When newly hired by CRS in 1998, as both a Cyclotron Engineer and the Maintainer of the Cyclotron Physical Plant overall, I immediately noticed that my superiors were ignorant concerning lockout tag out, Right to Know, and Confined Space Safety, and other matters. As a result, I was the person who brought the practices of keeping MSDS logs and Satellite Waste Collection into CRS.
Case in point: I called in SUNY HazMat and consequently hung HazMat contact information after viewing lab workers ignorantly allowing a large benzene spill to evaporate while they continued to work in the fumes, after dropping a glass bottle. I safeguarded these workers by daily surveying the area affected, and marking it appropriately as in accordance with safe levels based on PPM air borne amounts. I then bought them rubber carriers for glass bottles. This was because I was in charge of all air movement in and out of all labs and everywhere in between. All air is filtered of chemical and radio elements before leaving the facility, and I was the one who was responsible for all of these various systems. For the chemists to of allowed chemicals to evaporate would not of only violated the law, but also would increase the amount of maintenance I would have to perform on the enormous activated charcoal exhaust filter banks and would also compromise my personal safety during the monthly audit I would perform on those filter banks.
In addition to addressing concerns already clearly defined by the company’s SOPs, it was also my habit to continually move forward to implement lockout tag out despite continuous resistance at CRS, as this directly affected my safety when I would perform maintenance on the cyclotron.
And because I maintained the underground water waste facility, my safety would also be affected by whatever was released down the lab sinks and cyclotron wells. For example, I had complained to SUNY Safety about CRS Chemical Hygiene infractions as two researchers were routinely dumping large amounts of discarded chemical wastes into sinks, once even resulting in an explosion of sodium metal in a sink, which explosion resulted in a visit from the Buffalo Fire Department.
In addition to chemical water waste, I also maintained the system that handled all the radioactive water waste.
And due to the risk of radio contamination and radiation exposure, it was also my job to get people not from our department, safely in and out, including accompanying all the SUNY maintenance workers and various inspectors that would frequent us. In addition to being the face of the company to these inspectors, I would also be the one to correct the documented defects found by the inspectors.
Safety issues were my normal daily concern, but this concern wasn’t only on my mind, for a year earlier before my termination, a previous employee was fired by my superior after complaining about Safety and FDA infractions to SUNY Radiation Safety.
Shortly before the date I was terminated (November 2006) I had written a long letter to the top safety officer at SUNY regarding lockout tag out issues at CRS, (dated October 2006), requesting a safety meeting, despite the command of the vice-chairman of CRS not to talk to him. In October 2006 I also had called upon Safety at SUNY to stop my relatively new co-supervisor from dumping radio-chemicals into sinks that where malfunctioning. The malfunctioning plumbing was illegally transferring radio-chemical waste into the storm sewer and she continued to do it even after I informed her of the problem (October 2006). This malfunctioning plumbing was due to flooding, sump failure, broken pipes, and electrical control panel submersion, after a freak snow storm called the “October Surprise”, which had devastated the Buffalo area, had also damaged our facility.
Two days prior to this snow storm (October 13), UB Safety had emailed me regarding how to contact OHSA concerning the LOTO problem at CRS, in response to earlier conversations we had about CRS LOTO safety concerns.
Shortly, maybe a week or less, after SUNY told my co-supervisor to stop using the lab sinks, I was falsely accused of laughing at my new co-supervisor by her, after she had informed me that her newly hired brother would be taking over my function.
Consequently, I was given a day off without pay for this incident. As a result of SUNY’s failure to respond to my letter to the Director of Environmental Health and Safety Services concerning the LOTO problem, I informed OSHA that I was not being allowed to perform lockout tag out, which resulted in OSHA calling CRS and setting up an appointment for an inspection. OSHA’s morning call to CRS resulted in that same day, a hastily written five page ‘final warning’ to me alleging multiple misdeeds by the supervisor whom I had stopped earlier from using the sinks, who had also accused me of laughing at her. After this final warning was given to me, I was continually taunted and threatened daily that I was about to be fired should I not complete an audit fast enough.
Being generally aggravated with the daily taunting to be fired, and also in continuous physical pain due to an injury at work, I referred to this supervisor as a stupid “b” in a conversation with another worker. The conversation was overheard and reported; I admitted the words and was fired.
My prior eight years of employment at CRS resulted in no disciplinary actions, but in my last 30 days, I was given a day without pay, then a final 5 page warning, and then terminated.
I applied for unemployment but was turned down.
OHSA later confirmed that lockout tag out was not being used at CRS, as I had complained, even as I had informed the Unemployment Court, which they didn’t believe. Therefore, I appealed to Unemployment using the report OHSA addressed to me, but Unemployment continues to side with the employer, saying I was insubordinate, and was not fired for my safety efforts, and refuses to accept this report as evidence of my safety activities.
Shortly after my termination another CRS employee reported multiple compliance failings at CRS resulting in 2 terminations enforced by SUNY. (The same 2 chemists I complained about earlier).
This then brings the total number of employees at CRS who had to go outside of CRS to get safety relief up to three, in within less than a four year period, one occurring shortly before my termination, and the other shortly after. Of this three; 2 of us worked under my supervisor and were fired by her after complaining about safety, the other person who managed to complain successfully did not work under my supervisor.
After termination, I immediately returned to school and in 2 years finished my Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering, and then stayed another two years and finished my Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering.
At the present time I own a business and have filed for a patent.