NFS President Joel Duling speaks during last week’s ceremony. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

By Brad Hicks

Forty-three months.

More than 1,300 days.

Five million hours.

These durations all represent the same thing – the period Nuclear Fuel Services has gone without a lost time injury.

The Erwin-based company recognized the achievement of 5 million safe work hours during a ceremony held Tuesday, Sept. 5, at NFS. The event featured a catered meal and safety fair for NFS employees, as well as the presentation of plaques and proclamations by state officials and officials with BWX Technologies, Inc., NFS’ parent company.

NFS achieved 5 million hours without a lost time injury in early June. The company has not experienced a lost time injury since November 2013.

“This is quite an accomplishment for any industry, particularly our industry,” NFS President Joel Duling said to those present for last week’s ceremony. “We’ve got processes and procedures and things that are in place, but it’s more than just the administrative controls and the engineering controls that go into our plant. It’s really every single person who’s sitting here today that makes this a true accomplishment.”

NFS Transportation and Waste Management Director John Nagy provided additional perspective to the 5 million work hour accomplishment.

“This represents the equivalent of an individual working 2,500 years without missing any time due to a work injury,” Nagy said.

TOSHA Administrator Steve Hawkins said NFS’ injury and illness rate is 96 percent below the industry average. Going by this rate, Hawkins said NFS could have expected to see approximately 30 injuries in the millions of work hours since its last lost time injury.

“We have no idea of the magnitude of those 30 injuries that NFS aborted by the work that you’ve done right here,” Hawkins said.

BWX Technologies Environment, Safety and Health manager Mark Elliott said safety is an “enabler of business success,” adding the NFS’ recent history supports this belief. He said as safety at the plant has improved and injuries have become less frequent, quality, cost and schedule goals have flourished resulting in record profits and increased opportunities for employment within the community.

“To achieve this level of safety performance, it is evident that every employee has agreed to become a part of something important,” Elliott said. “They’ve each committed to create a habit of excellence, and good habits create good safety culture. Good safety culture creates reliable organizations. NFS is a health safety culture and one of the best-performing organizations in BWXT.”

State Sen. Rusty Crowe was on hand to present a proclamation passed by state legislators commemorating NFS’ accomplishment. Crowe said the Erwin company’s leaders and its more than 1,000 employees strive to protect others at the plant, the public and the environment.

“Recently, NFS reached a significant milestone. No serious work-related injuries were reported after employees completed more than 43 months, 5 million safe hours, of high-consequence work vital to national security and nuclear nonproliferation,” the proclamation presented by Crowe read in part. “This achievement speaks volumes about NFS’ ongoing commitment to Tennessee and the company, and its employees should be recognized on this special occasion.”

Duling said NFS’ priorities are safety, quality, schedule and cost. He said the main objective at NFS is to ensure workers return safely to their families at the end of their shifts.

“I’m confident when I say NFS is a community of safety and a safety culture,” Duling said. “As a team, I look forward to us continuing the safe habits that mark today’s celebration.”

The achievement is made even greater when the plant’s operations are taken into consideration, Duling said. He said three shifts work five days per week, with maintenance activities taking place over weekends. This, Duling said, means someone is working at the plant 24 hours a day seven days a week.

“When you look at that, for 43 months working around the clock at this plant, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment,” Duling said.

Duling also said this is the first time in NFS’ history the company has reached this type of milestone, as the last safe work hour milestone was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million hours. He credited NFS’ employees for making the new mark possible.

“This is the employees that make this happen,” Duling said. “We’ve got the engineering controls and we’ve got our processes and procedures, but it takes the people to implement those and to have questions and to ask and make them better and keep things going in a positive direction.”

NFS, a subsidiary of BWX Technologies, Inc., manufactures nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. NFS also processes highly enriched uranium in one of only two Category 1 nuclear facilities in the U.S.