For many years, nuclear safety culture was treated as an issue primarily related to operators. However, it is now widely understood and agreed that nuclear regulatory bodies deeply impact the safety culture of the organisations they regulate and oversee.
The NEA Working Group on Safety Culture (WGSC) was established in 2017 to facilitate an open exchange of information and experiences among nuclear regulators in order to improve their safety culture, address their influences on the safety culture of licensees and consider related implications on regulatory effectiveness. The group held its biannual meeting via video conference on 27-29 April 2021 to review its ongoing work on safety culture and leadership in nuclear regulators.
“Safety culture is the first issue that came to mind when we were forming the NEA Division of Human Aspects of Nuclear Safety five years ago. We recognised that there was a need to take a fresh look at issues of safety culture for both the regulatory body and for the industry,” said NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV during his opening remarks at the meeting. “This working group has been an extremely important asset to everyone as these issues have been researched and investigated. A good example of this is the group’s recent report Methods for Assessing and Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Regulatory Body.”
This new report by the WGSC provides an overview of the methods, practices and approaches applied by nuclear regulatory bodies in order to foster and sustain a healthy safety culture. It catalogues practical examples to build the regulatory safety culture competence and to perform self-reflection and self-assessment activities. Based on the lessons learnt and best practices in NEA member countries, the report presents ten conclusions to inspire managers to continuously develop their regulatory body’s safety culture:
- Understanding the significance of the safety culture of the regulatory body
- Fostering management commitment and involvement
- Actively involving staff
- Learning from the experience of others
- Getting started
- Creating early successes
- Applying the right expertise
- Combining methods, tools and approaches
- Planning, monitoring and evaluating
- Ensuring continuous improvement
The impact of the regulatory bodies on the licensees – as reported by the licensees themselves – should also be considered as a major input for continuous self-reflection and self-assessment activities conducted by regulatory bodies. As such, the working group is now building upon these ten conclusions to explore the impact of the regulatory bodies’ safety culture on that of the organisations they oversee (and vice versa). During the April meeting, the group members furthered these discussions and formed a task group to develop methodologies for data collection on the impact of the regulator, to be undertaken in 2022.
In parallel, the group is currently also working on a task on leadership and the impact of leadership methods on the workplace culture of the regulatory body. In this context, the group is exploring approaches outside of performance-based enforcement actions that can be taken in order to encourage a healthy safety culture, as well as to encourage leadership support of safety within the organisation. The group members are seeking to identify the leadership characteristics needed in nuclear regulatory bodies to maintain a healthy safety culture as well as examples of day-to-day individual and group behaviours. This practical guidance will leaders at all levels.