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Independent Safety Culture Assessment (ISCA)

The purpose of an ISCA is to support high levels of safety by forming an agreed view of an organization’s safety culture and identify areas where improvements can be made.

Investigations into nuclear power plant accidents such as Chornobyl in 1986 and Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 concluded that the lack of a strong nuclear safety culture was a significant contributing factor to these events.

The IAEA developed the Independent Safety Culture Assessment (ISCA) peer review programme to provide the requesting organization a window into its safety culture characteristics, shared values and basic assumptions. As a result of an ISCA, an organization will be able to develop and strengthen its culture so that safety is appropriately prioritised by all its members.

An ISCA can help to improve workplace safety by identifying strengths and weaknesses in the interactions between people, the technology they use and their organization. They also provide insight into how and why people behave within organizations the way they do, and both the positive and negative effects they have on its safety culture.

The ISCA team uses a number of methods (interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, document reviews and observations) to systematically collect a wide variety of organizational data. This multidimensional data collected is analysed and consolidated into an ‘image’ of the organization’s culture, which is then compared to the IAEA Safety Culture Characteristics, as well as IAEA Safety Standards.

The ISCA team holds meetings with senior management throughout the review to discuss the findings, insights and recommendations and provides a detailed report soon after the assessment. The IAEA then schedules a follow-up mission with senior management to review progress in addressing the ISCA recommendations and suggestions. Follow-up missions typically take place 18 to 24 months after the initial ISCA mission.

ISCA missions last on average from two to three weeks and are conducted by a review team consisting of at least two safety culture experts, depending on the size of the organization.

An ISCA may be requested by the license holders of nuclear facilities and activities in any stage of development (e. g. design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning).

Member States desiring an ISCA mission should send a request by email to the IAEA's Division of Nuclear Installation Safety.

The Agency is currently developing a new version of the safety culture framework to harmonize the existing IAEA framework with that of WANO and other institutions. Inputs were gathered from representatives from several Member States and multiple industries to produce guidance with applicability beyond the nuclear power industry. Additionally, the language has been reviewed for suitability to be translated into languages other than English. Further information is available in the IAEA working document titled ‘A Harmonized Safety Culture Model’. The harmonized safety culture framework will be officially adopted with the next revision of ‘IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GS-G-3.1, Application of the Management System for Facilities and Activities’.

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