Concept of “Safety Culture”
The safety culture concept was first introduced in 1986 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA) in analyzing the causes and consequences of the Chernobyl accident. It was acknowledged that it was the lack of safety culture that became one of the causes of the catastrophe.
The International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group to the Director General of the IAEA has suggested defining this notion (which is also specified in the regulation “General Safety Provisions for Nuclear Power Plants” (NP 306.2.-141-2008) to read as follows:
"Safety culture is an assembly of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which determines that nuclear plant safety issues as having overriding priority, shall receive the attention warranted by their significance.”
The operating experience of nuclear power plants has demonstrated that the causes of accidents and incidents are somehow related to the people’s behaviour (the human factor), namely their attitude towards safety issues.
Therefore, the NPP management first and foremost focuses on human resources, management style and practices, social and psychological atmosphere within labour collectives.
All staff’s members starting with the top administrative level, are involved in fostering and promoting the safety culture. The standing safety culture committees have been working at nuclear power plant. These are collective boards that coordinate activities of nuclear power plants’ subdivisions in fostering and enhancing the safety culture of the personnel.
Here, special attention is paid to the development of a sense of personal responsibility and commitment to safety culture among everyone whose activity has an impact on the safety of NPP. The policy of power plants is aimed at encouraging the personnel to review critically their actions and making them intolerant to any negligence as it relates to safety culture. The management of NPPs strives earnestly to create the environment in which employees would be never afraid of reporting about their mistakes. This will allow preventing such mistakes from recurring. The system for detection and elimination of non-conformances, called OKO, was installed and is successfully deployed by NPPs. That system provides each employee with not only the right but also a practical way to directly participate in imposing an operational order by recording the comments and suggestions into the central data base.
The key personnel training curricula include the sections dedicated to safety culture. Appropriate training and methodological materials have been developed. They are used to train various categories of employees. The personnel recently hired also undergo the mandatory training in safety culture.
Mutual peer reviews are organized at the level of NPP subdivisions. Self-assessments of NPP subdivisions are regularly carried out in the area of safety culture based on the programmes developed taking account of the IAEA recommendations. Based on their findings, the safety culture status of each subdivision is determined, and if needed, appropriate corrective actions are developed and implemented.
NPP professionals take an active part in international safety culture conferences hosted by Energoatom every two years. The major objective of these fora is to exchange the experience and best practices, summarize the outcomes of efforts on upgrading of the safety culture level, and to outline the areas for further improvements in this field.