[ RadSafe ] NRC Blog Post on "Questioning Attitude"

William Lipton doctorbill34 at gmail.com
Tue May 21 09:25:27 CDT 2013

I commend the NRC for its recent blog posting on maintaining a questioning
attitude, which is pasted, below.  I urge every radiation safety
professional to keep this in mind.

Bill Lipton
It's not about dose, it's about trust.

How a Questioning Attitude Encourages
by Moderator <http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/author/nrcmoderator3/>
Maria E. SchwartzOffice of Enforcement Senior Project Manager

[image: questionnew]Are we there yet? Why is the sky blue? Why is rain wet?
Children have an endless list of questions as they discover the world
around them. But as we grow older, most people tend to ask fewer questions.

This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that we start to make
assumptions about many of the things around us based on what we have
already learned or observed. Sometimes we ask fewer questions because at
some point, someone made us feel ashamed that we didn’t know the answer or
made it clear they had more important things to do than respond to our

Re-developing that questioning attitude we embraced as children, however,
is very important to an organization’s health and critical to its safety

The NRC’s Safety Culture Policy Statement
“Questioning Attitude” as a trait of a positive safety culture. The policy
statement describes it as a part of a culture where “individuals avoid
complacency and continuously challenge existing conditions and activities
in order to identify discrepancies that might result in error or
inappropriate action.”

A questioning attitude helps to prevent “group think” by encouraging
diversity of thought and intellectual curiosity. It challenges the entire
organization to get clarification when something comes up that doesn’t seem

Examples include situations as simple as walking by a broken door day after
day without stopping and questioning why it remains broken; or skipping
over a confusing step in a procedure you use every day rather than getting
clarification. It could include ignoring an alarm because nuisance alarms
go off all the time and they never indicate an actual emergency. Or it
could be something a little more complicated such as not speaking up to
question a calculation that doesn’t seem right because the senior engineer
performed the calculation.

A positive safety culture requires the collective commitment by both
leaders and individual employees to emphasize safety over competing goals.
A questioning attitude supports that commitment.

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