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Investigating the Risk Culture in Three Disparate Fields

M Schell1*, K Schell2 , A Abdulla3 , (1) university Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, (2) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, (3) University of California - San Diego, La Jolla, CA


(Wednesday, 8/1/2018) 9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Room: Exhibit Hall | Forum 6

Purpose: All organizations seek to minimize the risks that their operations pose to public safety. For some, this task takes on particular significance because they deal with complex and hazardous technologies. Five decades of research in the field of quantitative risk analysis have generated a set of overall risk management frameworks and best practices that extend across a range of such domains. Diagnoses and prescriptions for improving risk assessment and management rhyme regardless of domain, but treatment of risk generates different results.

Methods: Here, we investigate the risk analysis and management ethos (we collectively term this the “risk culture�) in three different enterprises that require exceedingly high standards of execution: nuclear power, aviation, and medical physics.While the scope and class of risk in these fields is different, each has existed long enough for an evidence-based risk culture to develop, and the evolution of this culture is traceable in publications seminal to each. We conduct a textual analysis of the seminal risk documents in each of these three fields, and a citation network analysis to assess how siloed they have been, historically.

Results: We discover that nuclear power and aviation have synthesized risk cultures that borrow best practices from a wide range of disciplines, and especially from each other. There appears to be a distinct difference in medical physics’ engagement with the risk community: it is more isolated, and its best practices lag behind other fields’.

Conclusion: We review some of the critical differences between the medical physics field and those in the nuclear power and aviation fields. We outline how this state of affairs might prove harmful, and provide recommendations for improving the risk culture in medical physics and therefore improve patient safety.


Quality Assurance, Radiation Risk


IM/TH- Formal quality management tools: General (most aspects)

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