US Department of Energy

The context for this work was the decommissioning and decontamination program for nuclear weapons facilities. New regulations incorporating new standards were required to protect workers from exposure to Beryllium.

Read an article in Los Angeles Times about the seriousness of this problem.

There were three goals for the work of the team assembled:

  • develop a broad consensus on both the need for and the approach to formulating a regulation;
  • develop recommendations for inclusion in the regulation;
  • ensure that recommendations are sufficiently flexible to allow for easy updating of the regulations as new information (e.g. more extensive worker health data) became available.

The DOE had failed to generate modern safety regulations for Beryllium in 14 years of trying. The biggest obstacle was developing consensus between the various stakeholder and interested groups. These included the DOE, the US Military, EPA, OSHA, lawyers from the Justice Dept., contractors, affected workers, labor unions, health workers, scientists, academics and researchers in the field of public health.

Previous efforts to develop a consensus across this diverse group had resulted in bitter conflicts and no resolution of the issue.

A Federal Advisory Committee of 35 people was formed with representatives from the above groups. The Committee met in Washington and used theĀ Complexity Solutions process andĀ software tools to manage the dialogue, develop a common understanding of all the key factors and their interaction with each other. The Committee members developed a solid consensus around the fundamental issues and produced recommendations they all supported to the DOE in two meetings that, in total, took eight days.

Several of the participants, who had been extremely reluctant to cooperate in the past, continued to work with and support the DOE staff in the months that followed as they prepared the draft regulation. This regulation, with its new approach to allow for easy updating, was presented in 6 months instead of the 4 years that had been the norm for such regulations.