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[en] The main focus of parallel session TO3 was on enhancing safety culture and human performance for suppliers who provide services and equipment to utilities having nuclear power plants. There were five presentations on this subject, each providing a unique perspective on the issue. The presenters included those from utilities from Finland and Canada, service providers from France and Canada, and support organizations, namely, the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and the CANDU Owners Group (COG). In addition to these presentations, the session also contained a presentation by the Ibero-American Forum of Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authorities (FORO), elaborating their pioneering project on developing safety culture in organizations, facilities and activities using sources of ionizing radiation. FORO has developed a comprehensive guidance document on safety culture, including theoretical basis and practical tools to assess safety culture across medical, industrial and research activities as well as radioactive waste management and transportation of radioactive material.
[en] There is now widespread recognition of the importance of organizational culture not only in assuring the safe operation of nuclear power plants but also in shaping the response to nuclear accidents and related events. The IAEA conference captured this very effectively. In doing so, it laid the foundations for the further development of an approach that is now an integral part of the nuclear industry’s overall safety strategy. Recent advances in our thinking about organizational culture and safety were flagged and discussed in several of the conference sessions. Two, in particular, are worthy of further comment with respect to the significant challenges that they throw out to our current thinking in this area. Haber argued for a shift in thinking from ‘safety culture’ to a ‘culture for safety’. While at first sight this might seem only to be playing with words, such a shift could prove very significant both conceptually and in practice. It implies an important move away from treating ‘safety culture’ as something separate and discrete from the overall organizational culture, or as a detachable piece of that jigsaw. It offers up an alternative way of understanding the nature of ‘safety culture’. It sees an organization’s culture as an emergent property of the organizational system. Over many years, E. Schein has explained how this might work with a focus on ‘the way we do things around here’. By this, he means how members of an organization see, think about, understand and describe the organization’s world, how they share knowledge and what knowledge they share, and how problems are perceived and solved and how challenges are coped with. These things have obvious relevance to nuclear safety. This view has been widely accepted outside the nuclear industry for some time. Haber questioned whether the nuclear industry has ever properly understood the concept of ‘safety culture’, mentioning a continuing lack of clarity around its definition and status and around the mechanisms underpinning its influence on safety performance. She noted that, despite this relatively poor basis for operationalization, there has been a continuing development of methods of assessment and the implementation of safety culture programmes. She wondered whether the gains in safety performance associated with such programmes actually reflect a change in safety culture and if they could be sustained without reversion to the previous state. Her paper signals both the possibility of a significant step forward in our thinking towards a concept of ‘cultures for safety’ and, if not, a real need to think more critically about the existing concept of ‘safety culture’.
[en] Most timely, as it comes some 30 years after the first coining of the term ‘safety culture’, and provides an opportunity to reflect and gather together the many advances on this topic as a foundation for the future. Most timely, as it comes soon after the authoritative and comprehensive report by the IAEA Director General on the circumstances and lessons from the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, highlighting several lessons for this conference to build on. But perhaps, most of all timely because we are at the cusp of challenge, opportunity and hopefully great change — a Darwinian time. We hear that the world needs nuclear power if it is to provide all its citizens with the basic requirements of purposeful human life while preserving the natural beauty and environment of our planet. And yet, the continued use and growth of nuclear power has been challenged in some cases by a failure to deliver its promises of building new plants to time and cost, challenged by its rising financing costs and need for expert human resources, challenged by a severe nuclear accident in a highly developed and prosperous nation, and challenged, quite rightly, by a more sophisticated, questioning society.
[en] Nuclear power plants (NPPs) are designed to operate safely with a very low accident probability. However, despite the safe and reliable design of nuclear power plants, the nuclear sector has experienced three major nuclear accidents during the last 60 years, which were caused by the defects in non-technical issues such as human error, organizational and safety culture issues. Since then, many attempts have been made to minimize human error. In spite of these effort, we again experienced another Chernobyl type accident. The Chernobyl accident was known to have been caused by a weak safety culture. Safety culture became one of the major challenges in the nuclear industry after Chernobyl and major models and methodologies have been developed to resolve this challenge. The consequences of the recent Fukushima Daiichi accident require us to develop a new, and better, approach with which to face this issue. This in turn requires more research on safety culture. To answer this question, the IAEA Conference on Human and Organizational Aspects of Assuring Nuclear Safety included three plenary sessions on the systemic approach to safety. These sessions were comprised of three themes: retrospective lessons, current status, and future perspectives.
[en] It is obvious that we all have to learn from experience — this is essential in all sectors, especially in those dealing with risks, and for with nuclear risks, it is even more important. this conference has been a relevant instrument, providing a good opportunity for all of you to evaluate and assess the practices and the progress around the human and organizational aspects of assuring nuclear safety, as this is one of the sectors in which we really need to learn from experience. In the same context, it is obvious that it is absolutely important that lessons learned are linked to the realities, including the human realities that were associated to accidents, to the serious, but also to the minor ones. And it is also very important to link these lessons learned to the daily realities that happen continuously — as a way to ensure nuclear safety.
[en] The three parallel sessions dedicated to approaches to safety of other high reliability organizations addressed many issues related to the attitude to safety culture in other organizations presenting high level of trustworthiness and commitment with regard to safety. What follows are the Chairperson’s summary views on the presentations and discussions. The nature of the subject necessarily implies that the issues could not be grouped in a logical order, mainly due to their diversity, and are therefore presented in the order of the presentations. These were important sessions as they provided many opportunities for the nuclear industry to learn from practical experience of developing safety culture in other high reliability organizations (HROs). The human and organizational aspects raised within the broad and varied range of presentations could occur in any organizational setting, including the nuclear industry. Major accidents and incidents in the nuclear sector may have been prevented if the industry had been more receptive to inter-industry learning opportunities presented in these sessions.
[en] The occurrence of the Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents in the past gives people a false belief that nuclear accidents are destined to happen. In fact, these accidents could have been prevented by the presence of strong safety culture. Based on a review of the history of nuclear power and nuclear safety, the paper examines how safety culture evolved over the years and how it can guide the future of global nuclear power development without repeating the past course of accidents. (author)
[en] The formation of safety culture requires an attempt to exert constructive influence on the sociopsychological atmosphere of the team and the behaviour of individual employees. By creating a value system for the organization’s staff, as part of its general organizational culture, it may be possible to forecast, plan and promote the desired behaviour. However, it is also necessary to take into account the corporate culture of the organization. Leaders often try to establish a safety culture, where progressive values and behavioural norms are declared, but the results obtained are not those expected. This may be because those values and norms come into conflict with the reality and, therefore, are actively rejected by many members of the organization. The theory of generations developed by the US scientists Howe and Strauss helps in the analysis and consideration of the staff values formed under the influence of many different factors. The development of safety culture may depend, among other things, on the age of the employees involved. (author)
[en] A recurring theme throughout this conference Exploring 30 Years of Safety Culture, was the precise denotation of the concept ‘safety culture’. ‘Safety culture’ is composed by two nouns, the subject culture, (arguably, the manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively), and the qualifier safety (that is the condition of being protected from or not exposed to danger or risk). In the expression safety culture, safety is not used as an adjective proper, but as a modifier of the noun culture, denoting a culture designed to prevent injury or damage. This use, while common in the English language, is imprecise and definitively objectionable in other languages Unsurprisingly, the expression ‘safety culture’ is subject to subtle different interpretations, particularly in languages other than English. The lack of a globally agreeable and precise understanding on what safety culture really means has caused significant bewilderment and has challenged its operationalization. Perhaps due to vagueness on the precise denotation of safety culture, it was argued during the conference that the concept should be considered intangible and therefore unfeasible to regulate as a whole and thus unable to be subjected to legally binding obligations. This was always clear in the nuclear area (e.g. safety culture is not a legally binding obligation under the Nuclear Safety Convention). During the session it became apparent that this also seems to be the case in other applications.
[en] The culture of an organization starts at the top, but a long lasting robust culture comes from embedding the values throughout the organization. In taking forward improvements in cultures for safety in an organization, be aware though, of creating a ‘hyperculture’, or at least an impression of one — where some view the culture as: just pretty words, not practical things to change, or just another way of management beating me around the head. Do not use culture for safety characteristics as a check list, but as a framework for understanding. It is the outcome that matters. The culture for safety change in an organization is transformational, not about how can we change them. Finally, two essential points: — Culture for safety is intangible and cannot be regulated; it is culture for safety, and for every other sort of outcome – for success, for security, there cannot be more than one culture in an organization. — And for everybody, safety; culture for safety, is not just about NPPs, it’s about all those activities that use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.