Nuclear Safety Culture
Differences between industries can be identified in all daily work details. From communication and collaboration to competition and leadership styles in the office. The definitive lesson I learnt in the Nuclear industry, was that ‘Safety’ is the overriding priority above any other consideration. Comming myself from the automotive and construction industries I had to shift the mode of my “project management” mind.
Later on I have understood how this approach has shaped the organizational culture industry that permeates all companies and organizations inside. This culture is called Nuclear Safety Culture: “Safety culture is an organization’s values and behaviors — modeled by its leaders and internalized by its members — that serve to make nuclear safety the overriding priority.”
This safety approach has created a strong sense of commitment within the industry workforce, now I am able to understand how everyone is proud and commited in its job.
Currently, I am working in the NUSHARE project, which aims to develop and implement Education, Training and Information programmes to strengthen the competences required for achieving excellence in Nuclear Safety Culture in Europe. Our team is collecting all the related existing courses in Europe, for a later implementation action in a second phase.
This FP7 project was launched after an “European Education, Training and Information initiative” proposed by the Commissioner for Research and Innovation and the Commissioner for Energy after the sadly famous Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on 11 March 2011 (Fukushima). I find inspiring how people in our industry work with the objective of achieving the highest levels of Nuclear Safety to protect and benefit our society.
The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) defines the Principles for a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture as follows:
1. Everyone is personally responsible for nuclear safety. 2. Leaders demonstrate commitment to safety. 3. Trust permeates the organization. 4. Decision-making reflects safety first. 5. Nuclear technology is recognized as special and unique. 6. A questioning attitude is cultivated. 7. Organizational learning is embraced. 8. Nuclear safety undergoes constant examination.
Since the beginning of my professional career, I have enjoyed different technical and cultural environments from automotive to renewable energy, besides being in countries like UK, Sweden and China. The professionalism, integrity and commitment found in the nuclear industry is above all previous experiences.
I recall how my “nuclearization” took place during the first 1.5 years of training received in 2009. There I followed a comprehensive and demanding training on nuclear technology and PWR reactors; from basic nuclear physics to plant operation in a full scope simulator. I remember how our instructors made us personally accountable for all the nuclear safety aspects related to our training and our future behaviour when performing our responsibilities. Some of us, as future instructors in PWR plants we had to be as rigorous as trained. We learned the importance of “adherence to procedures” and the need of written evidences on all steps taken. The use of the 3-way communication were shocking at the beggining, and we found how peer-checks are useful in engineering design. Tools of human error prevention are always necessary to stay on the safe side during the decision taking in critical engineering processes.
The efforts in our company to maintain and increase the highest levels of Nuclear Safety Culture were in-house designed and implemented by a group of engineering and psichologists. Organizational culture is defined as “the shared basic assumptions developed in an organization as it learns and copes with problems”. The Nuclear industry found, along its accumulated operational experience of three thousand years, how Safety Culture is a key factor in the overall success to deliver clean and stable Nuclear energy in any given country.
Originally published at www.pedrodieguezporras.com on February 11, 2015.