NAO 209-1: NOAA Safety Policy

Issued 04/30/09; Effective 04/30/09; Reviewed Last: 08/2016 Pending Revisions

NAO 209-1: NOAA Safety Policy PDF


This Order delineates the roles, responsibilities, and processes necessary to promote a safe work environment for all employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as NOAA contractors. The Order complies with Executive Order 12196 (Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Employees), 5 U.S.C. 7902, "Safety Programs," and Sections 19 and 24 of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970.


NOAA shall provide a workplace environment free of known hazards that could place employees at risk of injury. The goal of NOAA's Safety Program is zero accidents. This Policy is predicated on several underlying principles:


.01 The Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (NOAA Administrator) and Deputy Under Secretary (DUS) shall provide top management support to the development and implementation of a comprehensive NOAA occupational safety and health program (Safety Program) consistent with Sections 19 and 24 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 5 U.S.C. 7902, and Executive Order 12196; and shall hold senior management accountable for fulfilling their safety program responsibilities, including ensuring that appropriate performance criteria addressing safety responsibilities are incorporated into workplans and performance reviews.

.02 The NOAA Executive Council (NEC) shall review all serious safety incidents (as specified under Section 4 of this Order) and ensure that appropriate corrective actions are being taken to address both the conditions underlying and/or contributing to the specific incident and any NOAA-wide policy and procedure changes needed to prevent future incidents.

.03 The NOAA Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), as the NOAA Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO) under 29 CFR 1960.6, is responsible for ensuring the development of a comprehensive safety and health program that complies with all applicable federal and Department of Commerce safety and health standards. The CAO also serves as the NOAA representative on the Department of Commerce Safety Council, and chairs and coordinates the activities of the NOAA Safety Council.

.04 The Director of the Environmental Compliance/Health/Safety/Security Office (ECHSSO), who reports to the CAO, and to the DUS (on significant safety matters requiring DUS attention), shall be responsible for developing and administering NOAA's Safety Program. Specific responsibilities of the Director ECHSSO include the following:

.05 The NOAA Safety Council shall be chaired by the CAO, and shall, in partnership with the CAO, assist in implementation of the NOAA Safety Program. Specifically, the NOAA Safety Council shall perform the following functions:

.06 NOAA Assistant Administrators (AAs), Deputy AAs, and Staff Office Directors have overall responsibility for promoting the goals and implementing the requirements of the NOAA Safety Program within their organization. They are responsible for the safety of their employees and operations as follows:

.07 Managers at all levels of the organization are responsible for actively promoting and protecting the safety of NOAA employees and the public by providing safe workplaces and operations. To fulfill this responsibility, each manager is responsible for, at a minimum, the following:

.08 Employees are a critical component of an effective NOAA Safety Program.

a. Each employee has the following responsibilities:

  1. Comply with established safety rules and policies, including the attendance at required safety training.
  2. Promptly report all unsafe conditions and safety incidents to their immediate supervisor. Immediately correct unsafe conditions and unsafe acts that are under their control. Submit a CD-351 when time permits to control the risk.
  3. Perform their work in such a manner as not to jeopardize the safety and health of themselves, fellow workers, or the public. Following safe procedures is a condition of employment for all employees.

b. Employees have the right to decline to perform their assigned task because of a reasonable belief that the task or situation poses an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm, and that there is insufficient time to reduce the risk through normal hazard reporting and abatement procedures. If time permits, employees shall report the situation to their supervisor to control the risk (e.g., submitting a CD-351). Employees may not decline to perform a task that is part of their normal duties. Normal duties include hazardous duty assumed by employees as part of their employment position, and for which an employee is receiving hazardous duty pay or other benefits consistent with the terms of NOAA's Premium Pay Handbook or for whom hazardous duty was considered in the classification of their position. The employee's right to decline a task shall not take precedence over an aircraft commander's or ship captain's ultimate responsibility to make command decisions to protect the safety of the crew and aircraft or vessel while underway, in response to an emergency, or in the performance of normal duties.


The purpose of the safety incident investigation program is to understand the underlying/contributing conditions that led to or contributed to the occurrence of a safety incident, identify appropriate corrective actions that must be taken to address these underlying/contributing conditions, and implement timely and effective corrective actions. Investigations of safety incidents shall be conducted by the NOAA management level appropriate to ensure the timely and effective correction and resolution of the underlying/contributing conditions that led to the safety incident. All incidents shall be reported within 24 hours of the incident occurrence to the management official responsible for conducting the incident investigation and to ECHSSO. Serious incidents shall be reported as soon as possible, but no later than eight working hours of incident occurrence. All incident reports and corrective action plans will be completed in compliance with the Exhibit to this Order.


Compliance with this Policy will be measured by tracking the number and severity of safety incidents, the number of lost workdays, property losses, and other incident-related performance measures (including the number of corrective actions timely completed) developed by the CAO in partnership with the Safety Council.


Safety health policies and procedures developed by the Line/Staff Offices to supplement this Policy and to address unique situations/issues faced by their offices shall be consistent with this Policy. Any procedures developed to assist in the implementation of this Policy shall be consistent with this Policy and shall be issued in separate guidance and be developed in partnership with the NOAA Safety Council.


.01 Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Sections 19 and 24, as amended (29 U.S.C. 668 and 673).

.02 5 U.S.C 7902, "Safety Programs."

.03 E.O. 12196, "Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Employees," as amended.

.04 "Record Keeping and Reporting Guidelines for Federal Agencies," as published in OSHA Instruction FAP 1.3, Appendix B.


This Order supersedes any policies previously in effect within NOAA concerning the NOAA Safety Program, to the extent that such policies are in conflict with the provisions and requirements of this Order.


Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans and Atmosphere

Office of Primary Interest:
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer

NAO 209-1 – Exhibit

Incident Investigation Review Requirements
Severity of Incident Management Level Accountable Timeframes
  Investigation, Development of Incident Report, and Implementation of Corrective Action Plan Review of Incident Report, and Approval of Corrective Action Plan Initial Notification to Next Management Level Completion of Incident Report and Corrective Action Plan

Serious incident involving:

- Employee fatility

- Hospitalization of 3 or more employees
- Permanent employee disability

- Conditions that could pose an imminent and severe threat of serious injury to other employees, or

- Property losses of $1 million
Deputy AA or Staff Office Director and the Director of ECHSSO (co-lead) NOAA Executive Council, with support from SECO 8 working hours 2 weeks, unless exception granted by CAO

[NOTE: It is recognized that some incidents may require more extensive and time-consuming investigations. The 2-week timeframe is designed to ensure that readily identifiable corrective actions are identified and corrected timely.]
All other (less serious) incidents, unsafe conditions or near misses with potential for above noted conditions. Second level manager, with support from their Safety Manager as appropriate Deputy AA or Staff Office Director* 24 hours 2 weeks

*NOTE: A copy of all incident reports, and approved corrective action plans shall be submitted to SECO for trend analysis, and tracking of corrective action plans.