Workers Still Waiting on Flats Verdict


Over 15 years after production stopped at the Rocky Flats Plant, workers from the plant who have suffered radiation-related cancers are still waiting for compensation for their personal injuries. Although federal scientists have acknowledged that workers at 19 buildings at the site were exposed to dangerous neutron radiation, they have refused to grant fast-track status to the workers as a class, forcing each one to present individual evidence that their particular cancer is related to their work environment, a kind of personal toxic tort. The process of individual application often takes two years or more, and one in ten of them will not survive it.

Because the claimants worked on plutonium bomb triggers, they are not eligible to sue the government under the FELA law, and, instead, have to follow governmental procedures set forth by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Under these guidelines, workers are supposed to prove a link between their specific illness and their toxic exposure, unless records are missing or faulty, in which case the government can put them on a fast-track for approval. However, NIOSH scientists claim they can make valid individual estimates for all workers employed at the site after 1970, forcing them to make individual applications. And, despite the fact that the law demands workers’ claims be resolved in a “timely and efficient” manner, workers have waited over two and a half years for approval.

All the workers have cancer, and all of them worked in buildings where they were exposed to high levels of neutron radiation, so it seems irrational to demand that the workers present individual evidence of contamination. If their petitions are successful, the workers are not looking at multi-million-dollar settlements, either. If successful, each worker will receive $150,000 and medical expenses.

This is another case where the government uses its legal immunity to abuse workers’ rights, and, unfortunately, the only remedy seems to be through congressional action. Write your senator or representative to get a revision of the compensation guidelines.

If you have suffered injury as a result of contamination in a private workplace, or a federal one covered under FELA, a personal injury lawyer can help. Contact today to get in touch with one in your area.