Safety

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The federal government led a bus load of journalists to points across the Hanford nuclear site. Officials wanted to show off what they’re doing to keep workers safe from chemical vapors. Since the spring a run of workers have needed medical attention from vapor exposure. Correspondent Anna King was on the bus, and files this report.

Michael Werner / EarthFix

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.

Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail.

More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

The company regularly touts its commitment to safety.

But an EarthFix investigation reveals some troubling patterns in the way BNSF Railway deals with whistleblowers – particularly those who voice concerns about safety.

Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix. EarthFix’s Tony Schick contributed to the reporting for this story.

Kevin Mooney / NICB

In what Northwest city is your car most likely to be stolen? According to a new insurance industry report, the answer is Spokane. Meanwhile, the former top auto theft hot spot of Yakima made significant improvement in the last year.

SALEM, Ore. – Some of the fiercest debates this year in the Oregon legislature have revolved around something critics call the “nanny state.” These are bills to regulate personal behavior. The issues may change, but it’s a conversation that’s been going on for decades.

Let's start with a recent example. A measure that would ban smoking in cars when there are children present. Republican Oregon state Senator Jeff Kruse is a smoker, but that’s not why he opposes the bill.

Photo by Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Mining pumps on average nearly a billion dollars into Idaho’s economy every year. Idaho, along with Nevada and Utah are considered mining friendly states. But the industry is frustrated that it can take years before permits are issued and work can get underway. That’s why mining officials appealed to state lawmakers this week to help speed up the regulatory process. As Earthfix reporter Aaron Kunz explains it’s a proposition that has environmentalists worried.

On Deck at Boeing's 787 Assembly Line

Jan 18, 2013
Photo by Strower / Wikimedia Commons

Outside the Boeing plant in Everett, newly assembled 787s sit ready for delivery. Inside, the production line rolls on. That’s despite this week’s setbacks for the company’s newest model, the 787 Dreamliner.

Airlines around the world have grounded the planes amid concerns about its lithium ion batteries. It was a battery issue that caused an All Nippon Airways’787 to make an emergency landing in Japan earlier this week. KUOW’s Liz Jones visited the Boeing plant in Everett to get a closer view of this aircraft under scrutiny.

Photo by John Ryan / Northwest News Network

One Washington state senator says it is past time for lawmakers to increase safety at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. Paige Browning reports Senator Mike Carrell announced he will propose legislation in the coming term.

Photo by Derek Ramsey / Wikimedia Commons

The holiday season is upon us. And along with that comes ski season. Snow is falling in the Cascades. Wednesday is opening day at Crystal Mountain and Mount Baker. Tuesday Stevens Pass opened.

But giddy enthusiasm from skiers and snowboarders’ throughout the region is overshadowed by an accident at Stevens Pass last February. It was big.

News Report: “We’re gonna begin with those deadly avalanches. A deadly avalanche near Stevens Pass /We are gonna begin with the breaking news: that deadly avalanche in Washington state.”

Three people were killed that day.

Now, as KUOW’s Sara Lerner reports, ski industry veterans are trying to come up with new ways to keep people safe in the back country.

Photo Credit: Nathan Bevier/Wiki Commons

At a convention today Thursday, tribes from around the Northwest released a joint statement calling for a full environmental analysis of five proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington.

Photo courtesy Veseth family via U.S. Forest Service

Managers at a blaze in north Idaho were warned about hazardous conditions the day before a 20-year-old firefighter died on the job. That’s according to an informal report by the head of a federal hotshot crew, which refused to work on the fire. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has more.

Health officials are urging people to take steps to stay cool during the hot weather. Forecasters have issued a heat advisory for the next few days. Temperatures are expected to peak in the low-90s in Western Washington. Ruby de Luna reports Young children, elderly people, and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable.

The daughter of a north Idaho miner killed in a tunnel collapse last year says federal regulators are failing to hold the company responsible. She says new fines do not do justice to her father’s death. The federal government is proposing $360,000 in penalties related to an accident that killed Larry Marek. Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports.

A major government contractor on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has a new plan to improve its safety culture. Bechtel has come under sharp criticism by federal nuclear watchdogs. Correspondent Anna King has more.

A series of close calls on overseas trips has led the Washington State Investment Board to contract with a top global security firm. One incident even had the potential to turn into a kidnapping.

From China and India to remote mining areas in Patagonia and Western Australia. These days Washington state investment officers travel the globe to see firsthand real estate and other investment opportunities. But visits to emerging markets come with risk. According to state documents, staff members have been threatened in Rio de Janeiro, swept up in a civil riot in Nigeria and even, in one case, eluded what could have turned into a kidnap and ransom situation in remote Southeast Asia.

Photo credit: Donald Wall / Northwest News Network

The nuclear industry faces a generation gap. A lot of the people who run nuclear power plants are nearing retirement. Now the Obama Administration has awarded $6.3 million to Northwest universities to help train the next generation of nuclear leaders.

Donald Wall directs Washington State University’s Nuclear Radiation Center in Pullman. The reactor is surrounded by the university’s golf course.

Safety Improvements On Track At Idaho Mine Where Two Died

May 8, 2012
Photo courtesy of Hecla Mining

Work crews are ahead of schedule on safety improvements at the north Idaho mine where two men died last year. That’s the update today from the Hecla Mining Company, which owns the troubled Lucky Friday Mine. The federally mandated improvements have taken a bite into Hecla’s profits.

Federal inspectors ordered Hecla to make a whole stack of safety improvements at its north Idaho silver mine. The biggest task is a top to bottom scrubbing of the mine’s main shaft. Inspectors found loose cement on the wall of this 6,000 ft conduit that takes ore and people in and out of the mine.

Sunshine Brings Recreational Water Use On Deathly Cold Water

Apr 20, 2012
Photo credit: KUOW / Northwest News Network

Gorgeous weather is on its way to the Puget Sound region, for the third weekend in a row. That means, kayakers and canoers are eager to get back out on the water. But officials warn that high air temperatures can be misleading, because the water in rivers and lakes is so much colder.

Ted Buehner with the National Weather Service says six people drowned in Washington in the last month in accidents involving non-motorized boats.

Photo courtesy of Bechtel / Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – The main government contractor building the waste treatment plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, has hired a new safety culture manager. This move comes after multiple federal reports have criticized the southeast Washington project – some saying that employees feel reluctant to raise concerns with the plant. Correspondent Anna King reports.