Health and Safety:

DOE's Implementation of a Comprehensive Health Surveillance Program Is Slow

RCED-94-47: Published: Dec 16, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the: (1) status of the Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to implement a comprehensive health surveillance program; and (2) effectiveness of the current DOE health surveillance program.

GAO found that: (1) although almost 4 years have passed since the Secretary of Energy directed the establishment of a comprehensive health surveillance program, DOE has not fully implemented a new health surveillance program; (2) implementation of a comprehensive DOE health surveillance program is still 5 years away because of staffing shortages and a lack of program planning; (3) the current program is limited to analyzing patterns of illnesses and injuries based on information provided by DOE sites; (4) the current program covers only about 40 percent of the DOE workforce and does not provide early warning signs of potential workplace hazards that are needed to protect workers from occupationally-related diseases, injuries, and premature death; (5) the reports on workers' injuries and illnesses are not always timely and useful; and (6) the DOE Office of Health is improving the timing and organization of the current program's reports and plans to expand the current program to additional sites in 1994.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health completed the implementation plan for the health surveillance program in September 1995. The plan includes the tasks, milestones and resources assigned to the program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of Environment, Safety and Health to develop an implementation plan for a comprehensive health surveillance program that outlines the tasks to be performed, as well as specific milestones based on the priority and resources assigned.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Director of Epidemiologies Studies, problems with the collection of health surveillance data have been corrected. Data are now being transmitted from DOE sites on a monthly basis and reports sent back to sites in a reasonable timeframe.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary of Environment, Safety and Health to correct the data collection problems in the current program before expanding it to additional DOE sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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