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The Danger of Complacency

Mike Nickerson

Stories of security personnel, in nuclear reactors, see below, made the papers In January of this year. This highlights two problems that can be taken in stride in some cases, yet pose unacceptable dangers when it comes to facilities which, if things go badly wrong, could kill hundreds of thousands of people, cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damages and make large areas uninhabitable for a lifetime.

Tenure is a suiting reward for people who have made substantial contributions and commitments to their work. Unfortunately, permanence has drawbacks. When individuals know that their positions are secure, they need not be as diligent as they had to when their jobs depended on their performance. Furthermore, when anyone has been at a job for five or ten years, their work will often feel mundane, due to intense familiarity. The consequences of these two factors can be tardy or clumsy response in emergency situations. Human error is the verdict when such accidents occur.

Article from the Washington Post:

"Video of Sleeping Guards Shakes Nuclear Industry Sight of Guards AsleepShakes Industry"

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer Friday,
January 4, 2008;

Kerry Beal was taken aback when he discovered last March that many of his fellow security guards at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania were taking regular naps in what they called "the ready room."

When he spoke to supervisors at his company, Wackenhut Corp., they told Beal to be a team player. When he alerted the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, regulators let the matter drop after the plant's owner, Exelon, said it found no evidence of guards asleep on the job.

So Beal videotaped the sleeping guards. The tape, eventually given to WCBS, a CBS television affiliate in New York City, showed the armed workers snoozing against walls, slumped on tabletops or with eyes closed and heads bobbing.

The full story is posted at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/03/AR2008010304442.html