Background & Application

Stated simply, the DOE takes worker safety and health very seriously. DOE work presents certain dangers that aren’t found on any other job site. Because of the nature of the high-risk work we are sometimes asked to do, DOE places special emphasis on worker safety and health. Understanding that fact explains why we have 851, a set of special rules to match the unusual circumstances we often encounter.

The DOE wrote 851 to provide a framework for all safety and health programs. 851 requires DOE contractors to adhere to specific federal guidelines, including certain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, and general standards like the National Electric Code (NFPA 70). And 851 supplements and supports the Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS) which is also required on DOE Sites. Also, DOE contractors are encouraged to adopt the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) that elevates safety to a central consideration in the way work is planned and performed.

The plain, overarching goal behind the effort is to provide workers with safer and healthier DOE workplaces, where all hazards are identified and controlled so workers are adequately protected.

Here’s the introductory statement of ‘scope and purpose’ from the final 851 rule:

(a) The worker safety and health requirements in this part govern the conduct of contractor activities at DOE sites.
(b) This part establishes the:
(1) Requirements for a worker safety and health program that reduces or prevents occupational injuries, illnesses, and accidental losses by providing DOE contractors and their workers with safe and healthful workplaces at DOE sites; and
(2) Procedures for investigating whether a violation of a requirement of this part has occurred, for determining the nature and extent of any such violation, and for imposing an appropriate remedy.

Application and Exceptions

What’s your connection to 851? Well, 851 applies to nearly all contractor work at DOE jobsites, with only a few exceptions, so it is easier to list the work that isn’t covered by 851.

851 does not apply to:

  • Work at DOE sites that is regulated by OSHA;
  • Sites operated under the authority of the Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion;
  • Radiological hazards to the extent they are already regulated by the DOE nuclear safety requirements;
  • Transportation activities to and from a DOE site; and
  • DOE Federal employees

So, who are we talking about? The regulation targets the relationship between contractors and workers.  A contractor is a business under contract with DOE. It includes affiliated groups above and below the contracting organization, meaning subs and parent companies. And what kind of work are we talking about? 851 applies to all activities performed by DOE contractors and subcontractors including design, construction, operation, maintenance, decontamination and decommissioning, research and development, and environmental restoration.

But officially, an 851 covered workplace is a DOE site where work is conducted by a contractor to further a DOE mission. If you work on a DOE jobsite for a contractor, then 851 probably applies to your situation, with only those very limited exceptions described above. And it’s a law you should know about.