The Importance of Paying Attention to “Chill”
December 26, 2012
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The 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