Cultural factors: Understanding culture to design organisation structures and systems to optimise safety

Edwards, Jason, Davey, Jeremy D., & Armstrong, Kerry (2015) Cultural factors: Understanding culture to design organisation structures and systems to optimise safety. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, pp. 4991-4998.

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Safety culture is a term with numerous definitions in the literature. Many authors advocate a prescriptive approach to safety culture in which if an organisation has certain levels of externally prescribed systems and structures in place it has a “good safety culture”. Conversely, other researchers suggest an anthropological approach of exploring deep meanings and understandings present within an organisation’s workforce. In a recent published review, the authors presented an alternative view to safety culture, in which the anthropological aspects of safety culture interact with the structures and systems in place within an organisation to result in behavioural patterns. This can be viewed as a human factors approach to safety culture in which, through understanding the specific interactions between the culture of a workforce and external organisational elements, organisational structures and systems can be optimised in order to shape worker behaviour and improve safety. This paper presents findings from a recent investigation of safety culture in the Australian heavy vehicle (transport) industry. Selected results are discussed to explore how understanding culture can provide direction to the optimisation of organisational structures and systems to match worker culture and thus improve safety. Specifically the value placed on personal experience and stories, as well as on both time and money are discussed, and interventions that are suited to these aspects of the culture are discussed. These findings demonstrate the importance of shifting beyond mere prescriptive and interpretive approaches to safety culture and instead to focus on the interaction between cultural and contextual elements to optimise organisational structures and systems.

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ID Code: 86657
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: safety culture, human factors, safety communication, transport
DOI: 10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.650
ISSN: 2351-9789
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (111705)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2015 04:09
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 23:41

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