Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Get this document free

why radiation protection training is not working



                                    R Monty Guest

                     SETS Ltd, Suffolk College, Ipswich, IP4 1JN


UK industry and academic establishments are failing to make best use of modern,
proven, cost-effective and available methodology. Nor are they benefiting from
scientific studies of effective learning strategies. The results of two pilot surveys are
presented which show low use amongst safety specialists of the available technology
and modern techniques. This paper seeks to influence training course designers to use
the up-to-date state of knowledge on learning and memory together with modern
technological strategies for assisting that learning.


The worlds of training and education in the UK have been subject to two main
influences in the past ten years. These influences have resulted in changes which have
not been matched by Health and Safety professionals' commitment to use the most
effective methodologies for their radiation safety training. One of the influences has
been slow to percolate to industrial training bases and is arguably not necessarily a
training initiative. This is the introduction of new standards of assessment based on
competencies and skills with an underpinning knowledge base required. The second
influence is the advent of increasing availability and use of information technology.


The primary focus of the training must take into account the needs of legislation, the
employer and the work place but, it is argued, must concentrate above all on the
trainee's needs. If the trainee learns, the type of work performed improves. The
trainee's motivation and ultimate progress depend to a large extent on the degree to
which the learner perceives ownership of the learning situation. What might a learner
want, apart from an interesting course? Start time, study time, study pace would all be
chosen ideally by trainees but are invariably set for most prescribed industrial courses.
Turn up on Monday morning at the Training Centre where you will be trained!
Flexibility gives way to the need for a perceived standard start time, prescribed
standard learning time and set assessment time. Are health and safety professionals
aware of the extensive areas of discoveries made in the field of behaviour, learning
and memory? Psychologists would wish the discoveries of Bowlby and Vygotsky to
become as well known as those of Sievert and Gray. It is argued that involving
professional trainers in the planning process of training courses improves working
practices, influences ALARP procedures and affects changes in safety culture.

There are two main requirements which need to be instituted if an employer wishes to
introduce effective training. The first is the need to change from an information
delivery to a critical thinking approach. This will depend on the model which is
considered for the learning. If the trainee is viewed as a vessel to be filled, the
information delivery approach will dominate. An alternative model for the learning
process is that which explains the term "interactive". Bond, 1985, identified the
primary importance of turning experience into learning, something he termed
"reflection". It has four characteristics:

· The synthesis of the old and the new
· The searching for meaning
· The need to try to build insights
· New attitudes leading to changed behaviour.

At this stage it must become clear that the author is not referring to simple task related
training but rather to training which is arguably indistinguishable from education in
that it enables the trainee to behave appropriately in response to a wide range of
challenges requiring decisions: a holistic approach. Rather than viewing the
knowledge base of radiation protection as a store of codified wisdom - unproblematic
in terms of its objectivity, truth and certainty - trainees should be trained to perceive it
as problematic in all of these respects. For example, at the graduate level, the nature,
and validity of knowledge claims in radiation protection should be assessed at three

 Asking "sociological" questions, e.g. who advances the claims, whose interests are
  at stake, on whose authority do the reasoning and evidence depend?
 Asking methodological questions, e.g. about sample size, selection, design of the
  experiment or model, controls, assumptions, use of surrogates, etc
 Asking philosophical questions, e.g. about how robust the logic of an argument is,
  its ethical assumptions (for instance, the ethics of mass mammography or radon
  reduction campaigns)

The second key consideration is the need to introduce interactive learning: where the
learner is interactive with the material being learnt.


Traditional teaching and learning methods have been challenged for some time by the
concepts of distance learning and resource based learning. The former still suffers
from an underlying assumption that it is just another name for the correspondence
course. The former includes the latter but is not constrained by the need to rely on
1950s technologies. Instead of arming themselves with a pen and paper, today's
students work on PC, download course work from the Web, attend seminars using
computer conferencing and send work to tutors by e-mail. Indeed distance learning is
better termed telematic learning.

The argument that there are certain areas of subject matter which are not suitable for
telematic methodologies is easily destroyed when one looks at the range of training
and educational courses which use telematic means. There are MSc courses in
Virology and MBA programmes for those who are anxious to develop their potential
by gaining postgraduate qualifications. Professional bodies like the Institute of
Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) have endorsed the professional status of such courses by
awarding Fellowships to those who are successful. The University of Northumbria
MBA material is mainly on Web pages, but e-mail is the core tool. The most
prominent UK educational and training organisation linked to telematics is the Open
University. The OU uses the Internet and produces case study CD-Roms for its MBA
students with links to company Web sites.


As the surveys reveal, trainees' freedom of access to the Internet varies from site to
site and industry to industry. Some employers provide access for trainees at certain
locations. 'Patrol' software can be installed to limit access to illicit information.
Monitoring software provides a record of sites visited by individual trainees. The
Internet provides some material of high quality. Information can be provided in real

There are some warnings which need to be issued, however. Information provided on
the Internet, and to a lesser extent on CD-ROMs, gains an authority and credibility
that may not always be warranted. For example information provided by non-
corporate bodies, individual enthusiasts and/or pressure groups can be placed on a
page. Much time can be wasted whilst carrying out searches for information on a
particular topic. Quick access to sites of real use and interest may be improved by
setting bookmarks. Searches often generate results with an American bias.
Assignments requiring only the collection of information can be completed with a
minimum amount of effort and understanding may not have been enhanced.

This use of easier routes to useful information and the practising of skills needs
development time. The role of the course developer becomes analogous to the
traditional perceived role of the trainer. Suffolk College is piloting a telematic project
for both local and more distant employers on the Internet. Participating employers
and students using passwords can access, electronically, information and assessments.
Such projects typically allow trainees using multiple-choice tests to have a maximum
number of attempts to answer questions correctly, to analyse their performance, and to
record results for external verification. The Internet can also be used to good effect to
encourage groups of students to work together to seek information. Trainees working
in small groups research a topic, obtain data, even pictures and text which are then
imported into electronic presentations.

Ongoing research into the efficacy of such programmes reveals interesting results.
There is often widespread criticism of video conferencing and the use of it for tutoring
for assignments.

Two surveys were carried out into training methodologies. Only some of the results
are presented here as snap-shot views and really need to be followed up with in-depth
studies of the changing way in which radiation protection training is adapting to
technological and cognitive advances.
Survey 1: Nuclear Sites

Types of Respondents

51 major UK nuclear sites and companies using radioactive materials were invited to
take part in the survey which was conducted between February and June 1998. 32
valid replies were received. The number of employees on the sites varied from 360 up
to 7000. The number of employees working in the section responsible for health and
safety, including radiation protection and safety varied from 83 to 1250, 1.7% up to
6.5% of the workforce. The names of these sections were many and various, e.g.
Health & Safety Services Regulations Safety Group, RSD, Environmental Safety.

Access to Internet

On average only 11% of the respondents claimed to have access to the Internet at
work. On average only 27% of them had access to the Internet at home as well. This
would appear to be well below the national average, certainly for professional

Of the 89% who do not have access to the Internet at work, 32% had access at home
confirming the nationally recognised phenomenon that Internet is developing from a
hobby to a "out-of-work recreation". No information was requested on the percentage
of time spent working at the computer.

Survey 2: Higher Education

Types of Respondents

154 questionnaires were sent out to individual safety officers, members of the
Association of University Radiation Protection Officers. 22 replies were received.
The numbers of academic staff involved in science programmes varied between 300
and 2000. The number of academic staff with a responsibility for safety varied from
15 to 250. Once again the name of the section responsible for safety showed
innovative use of titular license. All respondents were involved in training in safety.
The working time spent involved in training varied from <1% to 15% with a modal
value of 10%.

Access to Internet

Almost all had Internet access at work.
Only 3 respondents had Internet access at home.

To top