Safety Culture

Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior. An organizations safety culture is the result of a number of factors such as:

    • Management and employee norms, assumptions and beliefs
    • Management and employee attitudes
    • Values, myths, stories
    • Policies and procedures
    • Supervisor priorities, responsibilities and accountability
    • Production and bottom line pressures vs. quality issues
    • Actions or lack of action to correct unsafe behaviors
    • Employee training and motivation;
    • Employee involvement or “buy-in.
    Reference: Occupational safety and health administration (OSHA)
    Safety cultures reflect the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and values that employees share in relation to safety.
    Reference: S. Cox, T. Cox, “The structure of employee attitudes to safety: an European example”, Work and Stress, 5 (2) (1991), pp. 93–106
    The concept that the organisation’s beliefs and attitudes, manifested in actions, policies, and procedures, affect its safety performance.
    Reference: L. Ostrom, C. Wilhelmsen, B. Kaplan, “Assessing safety culture”, Nuclear Safety, 34 (2) (1993), pp. 163–172
    The collective mental programming towards safety of a group of organisation members.
    Reference: Berends, J.J., “On the Measurement of Safety Culture” (Unpublished graduation report), 1996 Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven.
    The safety culture of an organization is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, and organization’s health and safety management.
    Reference: Lee, T.R., “Perceptions, attitudes and behavior: the vital elements of a safety culture.” Health and Safety October, 1–15, 1996
    Safety culture and culture of safety are frequently encountered terms referring to a commitment to safety that permeates all levels of an organization, from frontline personnel to executive management. More specifically, “safety culture” calls up a number of features identified in studies of high reliability organizations outside of safety management with exemplary performance with respect to safety.(1,2) These features include:

      • acknowledgment of the high-risk, error-prone nature of an organization’s activities
      • a blame-free environment where individuals are able to report errors or close calls without fear of reprimand or punishment
      • an expectation of collaboration across ranks to seek solutions to vulnerabilities
      • a willingness on the part of the organization to direct resources for addressing safety concerns (3)
      References: S2S (safety to safety website)

        • Roberts KH. Managing high reliability organizations. Calif. Manage Rev. 1990;32:101-113.
        • Weick KE. Organizational culture as a source of high reliability. Calif. Manage Rev. 1987;29:112-127.
        • From website: HSTAT: Health Services Technology Assessment Text
        • From website: Patient Safety Network, PsNet)
        Management/Management Principles