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Reluctance to question authority: the weak link in the safety chain

12 September 2012

The report by the Japanese parliamentary committee into the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster says the root cause was the distorted relationship between the plant operator and regulatory bodies, which led to a fatally compromised nuclear safety monitoring function. The committee also concludes that Japanese cultural conventions and reluctance to question authority also bear a large part of the responsibility.

But reluctance to question authority is not just a Japanese trait. In incident after incident around the world, investigators discover that there were known problems in a particular plant, rig or mine, but institutional culture made operators unwilling to rock the boat.

Organisations serious about process safety need to make this a key action point. Only those where operational staff are actively encouraged to bring concerns to the attention of foremen and managers are likely to minimise the risks of one day finding themselves in similar catastrophic situations.

For a summary of the findings of the Report into the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster go to the link below.

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