Destroying the chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot will be a dangerous task, but those working to build the destruction facility are playing it safe, and have for more than 3 million hours.

Employees of Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass recently surpassed the 3-million-job-hour mark and have accumulated 1,876 days without a lost-time injury.

“They achieved this record while doing hazardous work like lifting and placing 60-ton pieces of equipment, installing utilities in deep trenches, putting up structural steel and doing heavy fabrication in machine shops,” said John Schlatter, communications director for Bechtel Parsons.

“Attaining this safety record as we’ve moved from design to construction is a direct reflection on our employees and their commitment to a safe workplace,” said Mark Seely, the Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager.

Bechtel Parsons was chosen by the Department of Defense’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program to be responsible for designing, building, systemizing, testing, operating and closing the facility that will be used to destroy the weapons stored at the depot.

One safety program Bechtel Parsons uses is called the CATS (Constructive Attitude Towards Safety) program where team members identify hazards on the job and recommend ways to mitigate them.

“Through the CATS team, our employees take responsibility for keeping each other safe on the job,” said Gary Cough, Bechtel Parsons construction manager.

The company’s safety philosophy begins with the “Zero Accidents” motto that emphasizes all accidents are preventable, Seely said.

“Our commitment to safety is very personal,” he said. “We believe every employee should return home to his or her family at the end of the day just as safe as they were when they left in the morning.”

A written Activity Hazards Analysis also is used for every work activity to identify all possibilities of danger, address protective measures, inspect equipment, go over procedures and provide the training necessary to protect workers.

Bechtel Parsons also utilizes the “STARRT” card (Safety Task Analysis Risk Reduction Talk) to review the hazards associated with the job and make sure everyone understands the work and the potential hazards.

All workers are given the authority to declare a “stop work” if a possible safety hazard is noted while performing a certain job.

“This safety commitment our team has shown during construction will carry over into operations,” Schlatter said. “Washington Defense Group, the team member that will operate the plant, is also the operating contractor at the Anniston (Alabama) and Pine Bluff (Arkansas) chemical demilitarization plants. Both of those sites have attained 10 million hours without a lost-time accident.”

Keeping Bechtel Parsons employees safe is “a nationwide effort,” according to Jeffrey Weldon, Bechtel Parsons Health and Safety manager. “It involves not only our employees here in Richmond, but also those at fabrication shops in California and Washington state.”

Visit for more information about the company and work being done at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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