Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is Safety Culture the Grand Unifying Concept?

I thought I would use this question as an entre back into some of Professor Bernhard Wilpert’s work with what became known as the LearnSafe project.  The LearnSafe website is worth visiting for insights into this issue and a number of others.

Two of the principal contributors to LearnSafe, Björn Wahlström and Carl Rollenhagen, published some of their interpretations of the study results in a 2004 paper, link below.  In the paper they state:

“The data collected in the LearnSafe project provides interesting views on some of the major issues connected to the concept of safety culture. A suggestion generated from the data is that attempts to define and measure safety culture may be counterproductive and a more fruitful approach may be to use the concept to stimulate discussions on how safety is constructed. ” [p. 2]

The contribution of the LearnSafe project comes from the empirical data developed in the surveys and discussions with over 300 nuclear managers.  It was found that the term safety culture was not frequently mentioned as a challenge for managing nuclear plants.  Instead, much more frequently mentioned were factors that are commonly understood to be part of safety culture. Wahlström and Rollenhagen observe, “This would suggest the interpretation is that safety culture is not a concept for itself, but it is instead ingrained in various aspects of the management activities.” [p. 6] 

This observation leads to the question of whether it is useful to put forward safety culture as a top level concept that somehow is responsible for or “produces” safety.  Or would it be better to think of it as an organic process that continuously evolves and develops within an organization.  This perspective would say that safety culture is more the product of the myriad of decisions and interactions that occur within an organization rather than some set of intrinsic values that is the determinant of those decisions.

Link to paper.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment. We read them all. The moderator will publish comments that are related to our content.