Skip to main content

Thirty thousand nuclear workers surveyed on safety cultures in their workplaces

Efforts to monitor and continuously improve safety culture have led nuclear industry leaders to task ORAU with performing periodic, comprehensive safety culture evaluations of their workforces and practices. By using written surveys and electronic surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, ORAU gained input from 30,000 workers over six years, which resulted in valuable feedback on the effectiveness of safety programs and initiatives.

Workers desire an environment where they are respected for their expertise, acknowledged for their contributions and informed about the reasons behind decisions. For each customer, ORAU follows up with recommendations to help managers and supervisors influence the perceptions, attitudes, behaviors and performance of the workforce.

The most common areas of concern center on leadership behavior and communication. Subsequent improvement actions reinforce strong management systems, decision making and leadership behavior; personal accountability for safety; and communication and reporting of safety concerns.

By following recommendations and taking effective safety culture actions, leaders are able to make data-driven decisions that help them stay on the leading edge of safety management of high-hazard work.

Impact Areas

Leadership Matters

An organization’s management systems, decision making and leadership behaviors play an tremendous role in employee perceptions of safety culture. Exploratory factor analysis reveals that this factor accounts for 80 percent of the variance in employees’ perceptions of safety culture.

Leadership Matters - An organization’s management systems, decision making and leadership behaviors play an tremendous role in in employee perceptions of safety culture. 75 percent of employees surveys say leadership matters, more than five times greater than personal responsibility.

Mind the Gap

Management’s perception of safety culture is almost always more positive than the perception of employees in the same organization. It is not a question of whether there will be a gap; it is simply a matter of the width of the gap. For example, senior management often believes they are effectively communicating through all levels of an organization; however, employees perceive that communication to be much less effective.

Minding the gap infographic

I asked 30,000 people in the nuclear industry about safety culture this is what I learned

Download the study

Contact us

For more information or to schedule an organizational culture consultation, contact Davyda Hammond, Ph.D., at (865) 241-7626 or

If you have questions about contracting vehicles, contact the ORAU Contracts Administration Office at (865) 576-7618 or

ORAU Media Contacts and Information

About ORAU

ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, provides science, health, and workforce solutions that address national priorities and serve the public interest. Through our specialized teams of experts and access to a consortium of more than 150 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local, and commercial customers to provide innovative scientific and technical solutions and help advance their missions. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Media Contacts

Pam BoneeDirector, CommunicationsCell: (865) 603-5142
Wendy WestManager, CommunicationsCell: (865) 207-7953