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Safety Culture

It is important that all cancer centres develop and nurture the concept of safety culture. The concept of safety culture arose following the Chernobyl accident and has been encouraged and developed by the IAEA, the nuclear power industry and many other organisations.

Safety culture is the combination of attitudes, ideas, commitment and actions that determine how safety is managed in an organisation. These concepts have been formulated into definitions by numerous groups. Two widely used examples of these definitions are:

  • That assembly of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which establishes that, as an overriding priority, nuclear plant safety issues receive the attention warranted by their significance. International Nuclear Safety Advisory group (INSAG)
  • The product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organization's health and safety management. U.K. Health and Safety Commission (HSC)

An important concept is that development of a safety culture requires active participation from all workers, at all levels of an organisation. There must be a strong perception that management values safety and expects it to be a normal and accepted characteristic of the workplace, influencing the attitudes and behaviour of all workers.

The importance of a strong safety culture has become apparent in the detailed analysis of occupational accidents and disasters. It has become clear that organisations that have not developed a strong safety culture are vulnerable to accidents and failure. It is insufficient for workers to simply follow organisational processes. It is necessary for all workers to be alert for potential problems and for management to develop trust, so that incidents and near misses can be explored in a no-blame manner, to improve processes.

Organisations that have a good safety record and a safety culture tend to have the following characteristics:

Strong leadership with senior management commitment to safety, even at the expense of throughput.

Continual reflection regarding work practices, through monitoring, analysis and feedback for improvement