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Federal court hears argument on request for immediate safety protections for Hanford workers

October 13, 2016

Following a two and a half hour hearing on Wednesday, federal Judge Thomas Rice said he will issue a detailed ruling “as promptly as possible” on whether to order increased protections for Hanford workers. For decades, workers at the Hanford tank farms have been exposed to releases of toxic chemicals from the waste storage tanks into the atmosphere. Exposure to the vapors has caused nose bleeds, dizziness, headache, breathing difficulties, irritated eyes and vomiting, as well as dementia, painful nerve damage, and lung damage. During April and June of this year, over 50 Hanford tank farm workers were sickened by exposure to toxic vapors.

Hanford Challenge, Local 598, and the State of Washington are asking the judge for a preliminary injunction that would require implementation of protective measures until the case is decided. The proposed protective measures would include mandatory use of supplied air whenever workers are in the tank farms and expansion the area where the supplied air respirators are required, known as the vapor control zone. The proposal also calls for Hanford to install and use monitoring equipment in the tank farms, to alert workers when toxic vapors are emitted while waste is being moved from one tank to another. These measures would help reduce the risk of more vapor exposures and related worker injuries at the Hanford site. Trial is set for September 2017 but plaintiffs say the workers cannot wait until next fall and are asking Judge Rice to intervene immediately to prevent more people from getting sick.

Hanford Challenge and Local 598’s motion for preliminary injunction is available here.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s motion for preliminary injunction is available here.

Read more here:

October 12, 2016: Safety improvements for Hanford workers now in hands of federal judge

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October 12, 2016: Federal judge considers more Hanford worker protections

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