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Safety culture: key theoretical issues

Pidgeon, Nicholas Frank ORCID: 1998. Safety culture: key theoretical issues. Work and Stress 12 (3) , pp. 202-216. 10.1080/02678379808256862

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The organizational preconditions to major systems failures are seen as increasingly important for risk management. However, existing empirical attempts to study safety culture and its relationship to organizational outcomes have remained fragmented and underspecified in theoretical terms. This is despite the existence of a number of well-developed theories of organizationally induced accidents and disasters. Reasons for this disfunction of theory and practice are first considered. The paper then outlines four key theoretical questions for safety culture researchers: the fact that culture acts simultaneously as a precondition both for safe operations and for the oversight of incubating hazards (the paradox of ‘safety’ culture); the challenge of dealing with complex and ill-structured hazardous situations where decision makers are faced with deep forms of uncertainty represented by incompleteness of knowledge or ignorance; the need to consider the construction of risk perceptions in workgroups, and to view risk acceptability as the outcome of a process of social negotiation; and the fact that institutional politics and power are critical for determining the achievement of safety culture goals, and in particular that of organizational learning.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD61 Risk Management
Uncontrolled Keywords: Safety culture theory, Risk management, Organizational accidents
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 0267-8373
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 08:47

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