Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Nuclear Safety Culture for Itinerant Workers

IAEA has published “Radiation Protection of Itinerant Workers”* a report that describes management responsibilities and practices to protect and monitor itinerant workers who are exposed to ionizing radiation.  “Itinerant workers” are people who work at different locations “and are not employees of the management of the facility where they are working. The itinerant workers may be self-employed or employed by a contractor . . .” (p. 4)  In the real world, such employees have many different names including nuclear nomads, glow boys and jumpers.

The responsibility for itinerant workers’ safety and protection is shared among various organizations and the individual.  “The primary responsibility for the protection of workers lies with the management of the operating organization responsible for the facilities . . . however, the employer of the worker (as well as the worker) also bear certain responsibilities.” (p. 2)

Safety culture (SC) is specifically mentioned in the IAEA report.  One basic management responsibility is to promote and maintain a robust SC at all organizational levels. (p. 11)  Specific responsibilities include providing general training in SC behavior and expectations (p. 131) and, where observation or problems reveal specific needs, targeted individual (or small group) SC training. (p. 93)

Our Perspective

This publication is hardly a great victory for SC; the report provides only the most basic description of the SC imperative.  Its major contribution is that it recognizes that itinerant nuclear workers deserve the same safety and protection considerations as other workers at a nuclear facility. 

Back in the bad old days, I was around nuclear organizations where their own employees represented the highest social class, contractors were regarded as replaceable parts, and nomadic workers were not exactly expendable but were considered more responsible for managing their own safety and exposure than permanent personnel.

One can make some judgment about a society’s worth by observing how it treats its lowest status members—the poor, the homeless, the refugee, the migrant worker.  Nuclear itinerant workers deserve to be respected and treated like the other members of a facility’s team.

*  International Atomic Energy Agency, “Radiation protection of itinerant workers,” Safety reports series no. 84 (Vienna, 2015).

1 comment:

  1. There is some relevant guidance in the Christian Bible:

    Matthew 25:40

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    Matthew 25:45

    Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.


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