The Working Panel (WP) practices an intense exchange of experience on reportable and other events. It comments and interprets national and international notification criteria (INES), assesses experience analysis and experience reports. Furthermore, the WP assesses and develops analysis tools (e. g. integrated event analysis, human factor analysis).
Following the many years of operation of nuclear power plants and continued efforts aimed at improving plant engineering and plant organization, a high technical and organizational standard has been achieved while, at the same time, the workforce has been made very much aware of the importance of safe and reliable operation.
The safe and reliable operation of a plant must always take priority even if the economic and political climates change. It is in this context that safety culture continues to be of prime importance.
Safety culture is understood to be an entity and the interplay between the safety management system and the corresponding safety behavior of the workforce. Apart from the technical conditions, administrative arrangements and availability of resources, it must also guarantee the preconditions for creating awareness as well as the active involvement of management and all employees to ensure the safe and reliable operation of a plant.
This VGB-concept to maintain and further improve safety culture is based on a continuous improvement process which is established by the recurring assessment of the safety culture, monitoring its trend, and the implementation and effectiveness of the required actions taken for improvement.
The assessment of safety culture focuses on the safety-conscious behavior of employees on all levels of the organization. This means that employees have to be involved in this assessment process as both participants and knowledge owners.
Permanently striving to promote and improve safety culture presupposes an open, no-blame atmosphere at work which could only be established by an internal evaluation system due to the highly sensitive nature of the information.
Therefore, objectives and purpose of the VGB-Concept and the assessment results including suggestions for improvement should be communicated to the workforce.
Practice to-date and the further evolution of the VGB-SBS
Since 2001, the VGB-SBS safety culture assessment system (VGB-Sicherheitskultur-Bewertungs-System) has been used in German nuclear plants with plant operators taking ownership and responsibility for this process of self-assessment of the plants' safety cultures.
Since requirements concerning safety culture have advanced further in the past years both nationally and internationally, the existing VGB-SBS release 2.0 was completely revised in July 2010. Now, release 3.0 has been available since the beginning of 2012 satisfying the demands and challenges of international safety-culture standards. The feasibility and efficiency of the new VGB-SBS were verified by assessments conducted at running nuclear power plants in Germany and in Switzerland.
The new VGB-SBS 3.0 focuses on the safe behavior of the entire plant personnel. As before, the assessment of the safety-culture status quo is conducted on the basis of maturity levels. This assessment includes factors that influence behavior, such as systems and functions but also attitudes and values of the organizations' members with a six-level rating scale applied in the assessment. The highest possible level of maturity is level 5. When this level is reached the safety culture is actually capable of optimizing itself (self-optimizing safety culture).