U.S. NRC Blog

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The Importance of Paying Attention to “Chill”

snowThe terms “chilling effect” or “chilled work environment” are important ones for the NRC. And they’re not referring to the winter weather.

At the NRC, “chilled” refers to a perception that the raising of safety concerns is being suppressed or discouraged – either outright with discrimination — or by a slow or no response. Depending on whether this perception is held by one person or a group of employees determines whether this is “a chillding effect” or a “chilled work environment.”

In either case, the NRC takes any allegation regarding the suppression of safety concerns seriously.

Recognizing that licensees have the first responsibility for safety and are in the best position to respond promptly to a safety matter, the NRC encourages workers to first raise safety concerns with their management. For this to happen, workers must feel free to raise potential safety issues directly to their management.

The NRC recognizes that if workers are subjected to harassment, intimidation, retaliation, discrimination, or other discouraging behaviors by management for reporting safety concerns, a “chilled” work environment may be created that could inhibit workers from reporting additional safety concerns. If this happens, a valuable source of information for maintaining and improving safety is lost.

In its simplest sense, if a worker at a facility the NRC regulates (or who works in connection with licensed materials) chooses to submit an allegation to the NRC rather than with their employer it may be an indication that the worker is “chilled.” For this reason, the trending of allegation information can provide the NRC with insights into the work environment of our licensees, including whether they are providing a safety conscious work environment.

For more information about the NRC’s allegation process visit our website at http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/allegations/what-is-allegation.html .

Maria E. Schwartz
Sr. Program Manager
Concerns Resolution Branch
Office of Enforcement

6 responses to “The Importance of Paying Attention to “Chill”

  1. Aladar Stolmar December 27, 2012 at 1:02 am

    The terms “chilling effect” or “chilled work environment” are descriptive ones for the NRC relation to the zirconium firestorm in the steam. It could be traced back to 1970-ties. And still reflected by Brian Sheldon’s research program. I ran into it in 1987, when I filed a safety concern relating to the Hydrogen re-combiners, ordered BY NRC based on the erratic representation of cladding-coolant interaction, disregarding the real firestorm of zirconium in super-heated steam.

    So what is the procedure now? After Fukushima Daiichi? Whitewashing and face-saving…

  2. Joffan December 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Yes, a chilled work environment is a serious issue. Like the one that Greg Jaczko created at the NRC.

    Any chilled environment, no matter the motivation, is at the expense of safety, because the characteristic effect is to suppress alternative views. The people who refuse to hear arguments to restart San Onofre, for example, are endangering safety by forcing other, less closely monitored forms of generation into use.

  3. BobinPgh December 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    First of all, aren’t most workplaces “chilly”? Even when I worked as a custodian and needed a cleaning supply management did not want to hear that.

    That said, why doesn’t the NRC shut San Onofre down if it has such bad management and shouldn’t the customers have some say as to how their electricity is created? Or are you afraid of creating massive unemployment?

  4. Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    What about when this happens inside the NRC? There were a number of whistleblower incidents in 2012 including one at Ft. Calhoun involving NRC inspectors and another over the dam failure flood risk study.

  5. HelpAllHurtNeverBaba December 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

    SONGS has the worst Nuclear Safety Retaliation Record despite certification by NRC of Zero Findings.
    See My email to the Whitehouse below
    Friday November 30, 2012
    Good Morning Mr. Jeremy Bird
    National Field Director
    Obama for America
    When a powerful corporation and their attorneys are trying to block all the doors of Government Agencies trying to help the case of a Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation & intimidation of an Injured Minority Professional Engineer in a Democratic Society led by His Excellency Barack Obama, The Greatest People’s President and the Mightiest Man on Planet Earth, who should this person appeal to for justice. Can You Please help and advise..
    Sincerely
    Good Bless His Excellency and His family

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