[ RadSafe ] NRC Blog Post on "Questioning Attitude"

Clayton J Bradt CJB01 at health.state.ny.us
Tue May 21 14:09:17 CDT 2013


One must always distinguish between what the Agency says it believes in and
the reality of how it behaves in practice.

NRC established a task force to review the agency's internal safety culture
and its final report was published in April 2009.
Below are some quotes from separate comments by one of the task force

Internal Safety Culture Task Force
Final Report
April 2009

Comments provided by the NTEU (National Treasury Employees Union)
to the Task Force, Alex Murray:

"Staff concerns expressed to myself and other NTEU
members generally follow the themes in the Task Force report; in
reluctance to raise concerns due to fear of a negative work environment,
concerns about negative consequences and retaliation for raising safety
including staff use of the Non-Concurrence and DPO Programs (e.g., report
Theme 4). Staff has also noted to me and other NTEU representatives the
agency emphasis on programmatic issues (e.g., schedule) at the expense of
safety issues (e.g., report Theme 5). These realities can cast a chilling
upon the agency and can adversely affect the agency’s core mission of
regulating nuclear safety. We need to refocus on safety first."

"The agency’s staff does the majority of the work in an environment
with a generally top-down, naval like,
autocratic management style. Often, the management systems directly and
indirectly impact staff findings and conclusions, by establishing
expectations or
other goals that define, imply, or influence a predetermined outcome, and
rewarding those who align themselves with this outcome. The details of
implementation the report’s recommendations need to correct this management
style. Otherwise, the agency’s safety culture will not be improved,..."

"Currently, many members of the staff observe there is a misalignment
between agency statements regarding safety culture and issues, and our
practices. While we state our mission is to ensure safety, we largely
and reward based upon meeting programmatic schedules and licensing
activities, often in a manner favorable towards licensees."

"As a corollary, members of the staff have frequently expressed to the NTEU
concerns about the increasing demands on staff time for non-mission
tasks, such as more stringent administrative activities (e.g., time, leave,
tickets, multiple budget exercises). Completing these activities is often
part of
the performance measures of NRC organizations and individual staff. This
emphasis negatively impacts safety culture."

"I note the quality, capabilities, and “local institutional memory” of
first and
second level managers have declined in recent years, in contrast to a
decade or
more ago when managers were frequently experts or otherwise well regarded
the technical, safety, and/or regulatory areas they managed. Consequently,
these managers are significantly less interested and less engaged in the
technical, safety, and regulatory issues of activities and licensing
actions, and
more focused on programmatic metrics (e.g., schedules, meetings) and
administrative duties. No manager admits and corrects mistakes. The
manager” approach (e.g., frequently moving managers) has exacerbated the
situation. This is an underlying factor to all of the themes and findings
in the
Task Force report and undermines safety culture."
				    END QUOTE

This report is now four years old and maybe these shortcomings have all
been corrected.
(Or maybe this was just the union guy getting his licks in?) Any way, my
experience has been
that, pious words from management notwithstanding, no organization welcomes
a questioning
attitude from its subordinate staff. The transmission of information up and
down the chain
of command is inherently asymmetrical. Only good news travels up.
Criticisms, warnings, and questions
only travel down.

Clayton Bradt
Principal Radiophysicist
NYS Dept. of Health

**********************original message***********************

Date: Tue, 21 May 2013 10:25:27 -0400
From: William Lipton <doctorbill34 at gmail.com>
Subject: [ RadSafe ] NRC Blog Post on "Questioning Attitude"
To: radsafe <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
+aoKbnjM-zvJHU=fovLm96PLba=A at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252

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.

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