Independent Safety Culture Assessment (ISCA)

The purpose of an ISCA review is to provide independent advice and assistance to Member States in enhancing the safety culture of a nuclear facility.

Lessons learned from the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi concluded that the lack of a strong nuclear safety culture was a significant contributing factor to their cause.

The IAEA defines a strong safety culture as “the assembly of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which establishes that, as an overriding priority, protection and safety issues receive the attention warranted by their significance.”

The IAEA developed the Independent Safety Culture Assessment peer review programme to provide the requesting organization a window into its safety culture characteristics, shared values and basic assumptions. The aim of this review is to further develop and strengthen the organization’s culture so that nuclear safety is the priority of all its members. ISCA can be requested either as a stand-alone service or as part of an Operational Safety Assessment Team (OSART) peer review.

ISCA peer reviews can aid in improving workplace safety by helping to identify strengths and weaknesses among technical, human, organizational and cultural interactions and interconnections. They can also provide insight into how and why people behave within organizations the way they do, thereby positively or negatively impacting on its safety culture.

The reviews give the requesting organization the opportunity to better understand and fully address root causes of safety culture issues once they have been identified. The ISCA tools used are based on the IAEA Safety Standards.

The ISCA peer review team uses a number of tools (interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, document reviews and observations) to systematically collect a wide variety of organizational data. This multidimensional data is analysed and consolidated into an “image” of the organization’s culture, which is then compared to the IAEA safety culture framework.

The team holds meetings with senior management throughout the review to discuss the findings, insights and recommendations. The IAEA then schedules a follow-up mission with senior management, providing them an opportunity to review progress in line with the ISCA recommendations. Follow-up missions take place within 18 to 24 months from the initial ISCA peer review mission.

ISCA missions last on average from two to three weeks and comprise a minimum of two safety culture experts, depending on the size of the organization.

The independent safety culture assessment may be requested by license holders for nuclear facilities and activities in any stage of development (design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning).

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