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How safety culture can make us think

Abstract : Safety Culture has now been for almost three decades a highly promoted, advocated and debated but contentious notion. This article argues first that one needs to differentiate between two waves of studies, debates, controversies and positions. A first one roughly from the late 1980s/early 1990s to mid-2000s which brought an important distinction between interpretive and functionalist views of safety culture, then a second wave, from mid-2000s to nowadays which brings additional and alternative positions among authors. Four views, some more radical and critical, some more neutral and some more enthusiastic about safety culture are differentiated in this article. It is contended that this evolution of the debate, this second wave of studies, should be understood within a broader historical and social context. It is characterised, borrowing insights from management studies, by patterns of interactions between academics, publishers, consultants, regulators and industries. In this context, safety culture appears in a new light, as a product among other (albeit a central one) of a safety field (and market) which is socially structured by this diversity of actors. This helps sensitise, first, the second wave of studies, debates, controversies and positions on safety culture of the past 15 years as identified in this article. Second, approaching safety culture through this angle is an opportunity to questions safety research more globally and, third, an occasion to pinpoint some of the currently unproblematised network properties of high-risk sociotechnical systems.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 11, 2021 - 3:36:36 PM
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Jean-Christophe Le Coze. How safety culture can make us think. Safety Science, Elsevier, 2019, 118, pp.221-229. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2019.05.026⟩. ⟨ineris-03319060⟩

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