<- Back

David Gelpke is the Safety and Environmental Manager at Canberra Industries, Inc.'s corporate headquarters where he is also a Radiation Safety Specialist. Gelpke manages Canberra's Safety Program and Hazardous Waste and Wastewater Discharge Programs, and he is responsible for regulatory compliance, program development and implementation and all associated training.

In this interview, Gelpke explains how Canberra maintains consistent safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practices among its employees and customers, and he addresses the SH&E challenges Canberra faces as a supplier to the nuclear industry.

Please provide a brief overview of Canberra Industries, Inc.

Founded in 1965, Canberra Industries, Inc. manufactures radiation detection and analysis instrumentation. By the mid-1970s, Canberra had become a leading supplier of integrated nuclear gamma and alpha spectroscopy instrumentation. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, Canberra maintained its position in existing markets, and it expanded into areas such as health physics, computer-based spectroscopy and neutron-counting instrumentation through a series of acquisitions.

Canberra now serves a broad cross-section of nuclear enterprises, including industries engaged in fissile material production, nuclear power, environmental monitoring and restoration and safeguarding special nuclear material. Canberra maintains a technically knowledgeable domestic and international sales and support team, including nine international subsidiaries, and over 50 independent representatives in 60 different countries.

Canberra is now part of the newly formed Areva Group, which consists of Cogema, Inc. and Framatome ANP. As part of Areva, Canberra has expanded, and it now embodies a full range of nuclear measurement applications, systems and consulting services.

What are your duties as Safety and Environmental Manager and as a Radiation Safety Specialist at Canberra Industries, Inc.? How many employees are you responsible for?

I provide safety, environmental and radiation safety management services at the corporate headquarters in Meriden, Connecticut as well as consultation services at other locations throughout the United States. These other locations include smaller factories and remote operations that conduct onsite health physics services. My main responsibility, however, is to the 300 employees at the Meriden facility.

What methods does Canberra Industries, Inc. use to train its SH&E staff?

We use a combination of methods that include classroom instruction and video and PowerPoint presentations that consultants or I conduct. Computer-based training is used as well, and we are adding to our Intranet a customized program that is specifically related to radiation safety and hazard communication for employees who are located offsite. Training is documented under our ISO 9001 Quality System, which ensures that training is current for the applicable job and for the employee.

Canberra Industries, Inc. supplies the nuclear industry with analytical instruments, systems and services for radiation detection and radiation monitoring. How does your company maintain and implement safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practices during the production of the instruments and systems? What SH&E practices are followed when radiation detection and monitoring services are provided?

Our baseline for SH&E practices are the federal standards, followed by other standards or best management practices. Our quality assurance and safety departments are involved at different intervals during the development of a product or system. This same system applies to changes in process or factory rearrangement. We are currently in discussion to implement OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14000 in our management system.

When providing detection and monitoring services, a scope of work is developed that includes safety and environmental aspects along with periodic reviews and accountability to the customer.

Which of Canberra Industries, Inc.'s products or services specifically protect the safety and health of nuclear workers? How is this accomplished?

This really depends on what you mean by protecting the safety and health of nuclear workers. Our instrumentation can provide verbal and/or audible warnings based on continuous air sampling or on survey sampling of energy while working in or around radioactive materials. Other products can be installed and monitored remotely, they can be aimed at a target source of radiation from a predetermined distance, or they can be handheld. The basis of all work with radiation is to follow the philosophy of “ALARA,” which stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” while using time, distance and shielding to control exposure.

What is Canberra Industries, Inc.'s view of SH&E investment, and how is it incorporated into the company's strategic plan?

Safety is considered one of the main elements of our Sustainable Development Policy, and its sole objective is to have zero accidents. SH&E initiatives are driven by the corporate structure, and they are based on risk analysis and compliance with a written commitment to the system.

What specific SH&E challenges do you face as a supplier to the nuclear industry?

Communicating radiation principles, their uses and the safety of radioactive materials in a positive manner provide the biggest challenge, not only for our workers and for those in the field, but also for the public, especially since there are now more products geared to emergency response, the protection of emergency responders and to safeguarding radioactive material.

How do you ensure that Canberra Industries, Inc. complies with state and federal OSHA regulations?

Audits are performed internally or externally using consultants or experts in the corporate structure.

Must Canberra Industries, Inc. also comply with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations?

Yes, our program does follow NRC regulations. Periodic audits are performed as part of our program, and the program is inspected by NRC staff.

Canberra Industries, Inc. is the only nuclear equipment manufacturer that offers a full-time Training and Technical Services Group to serve customers after the sale. What methods are employed to train customers in the use of your products and services? How has the Training and Technical Services Group benefited Canberra Industries, Inc.?

That depends. Some contracts include onsite installation and training, while other customers attend training at our site for specific products or for classes on health physics-related topics. Field Service personnel provide training during calibrations or service calls. Additionally, we offer an annual User's Group Meeting where our customers can meet our technical staff, receive training in specific products or provide feedback on the use of our products. Our Technical Service Group provides basic training or product use direction by telephone, while some products have Internet capability and can be set up remotely. Customer satisfaction is the benefit, which is the goal of all of our departments and services.

Canberra Industries, Inc. provides onsite consulting services to support waste management, decommissioning, decontamination and environmental restoration. How are SH&E practices maintained among equipment and personnel during a consulting job?

Many of the practices are dictated by the main contractor and are developed into a site safety plan. The contractor provides some training, but we must provide other training prior to our entrance to the site. Accountability falls to the site project manager to ensure proper completion of practices and training.

You have been an ASSE member for the last fifteen years, and you are also a member of the environmental practice specialty. How has this experience helped you in your current positions?

My experience has helped me build organizational skills that I have used while working on various projects for Canberra. I learned these skills by working in the various offices of the Connecticut Valley Chapter of the ASSE and by participating in different committees for the New England Area Chapter's Professional Development Conference (PDC) and Exposition. These same skills have also helped me in my work with other organizations. For example, I completed a term as president of the Connecticut Safety Society, and I have worked on committees in local community groups.

Networking has proved to be the most beneficial part of my ASSE experience. Some safety professionals view themselves on an island without any support from management or from within the company. Networking develops relationships that can help you in a variety of safety-related fields. Networking with members of other professional societies such as building code inspectors, health inspectors and state and federal regulators can certainly give you a different perspective. Finally, networking serves as an opportunity to develop lasting friendships.


David Gelpke is the Safety and Environmental Manager at Canberra Industries, Inc.'s corporate headquarters in Meriden, Connecticut, and he has also served as a Radiation Safety Specialist at Canberra since 1993. Gelpke manages Canberra's Safety Program and Hazardous Waste and Wastewater Discharge Programs, and he is responsible for regulatory compliance, program development and implementation and all associated training.

Gelpke chairs Canberra's safety committee and associated committees, assists with employee orientations and provides consultation to the corporation in the areas of transport of hazardous materials and emergency response. In addition, he handles fire safety and security in conjunction with the facilities manager at Canberra.

As acting Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) at Canberra, Gelpke develops, implements and manages the Radiation Safety Program through an aggressive action plan. This includes safety training and employee orientations, audits and license compliance for receipt and the possession and transfer of radioactive materials.

Gelpke is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA). He holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial technology (occupational safety) from Central Connecticut State University as well as a Certificate in Management from the university's Management and Professional Development Center.

Gelpke is also P rofessional Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), a member of the Health Physics Society (RSO Section), an Advisory Board Member of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association's Connecticut Safety Council and a member of the Semiconductor Environmental Safety and Health Association.

Throughout his career, Gelpke has actively participated in the ASSE's Connecticut Valley Chapter and New England Area Chapters and in the Connecticut Safety Society and Symposium.