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Safety as a network, digital and global reality

Abstract : This article is a contribution to the special issue on safety science research in the new age of work. It aims to promotes an interdisciplinary and broad (multilevel) approach of safety, recognising the interplay of technology, tasks, culture, structure, power, strategy, regulation, society and markets. At the conceptual level, the article promotes a multilevel approach to change which connects mega-macro (global) trends with meso-micro realities with the help of an analytical (integrative) framework. It argues that safety has become a networked, digital and global reality during the last decades. At the methodological level, ethnographic research is presented as one suitable approach to studying safety in this context. Its relevance is based on prolonged periods of time spent in safety–critical systems observing work combined with interviews concerning daily operations and incidents. At the empirical level, a study of a plant in the chemical industry is used as an illustration of the argument. A narrative of the case is developed, exploring the implications of changes in automation and computerisation, externalisation of activities and organisational structure following a new corporate strategy. Change in plant boundaries, in the level of standardisation, in the amount of bureaucratic work, and in group (and regulatory) control and oversight are discussed along with their implications in terms of the nature of tasks and activities, professional identities, patterns of social interactions and distribution of power (decision making). Through the narrative, the increasingly networked, digital and global reality of the plant is revealed in full, with its multiple implications. The article then discusses the findings and reflects on the current flurry of changes which expose safety–critical systems to new challenges.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 22, 2022 - 2:45:45 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 30, 2022 - 9:14:18 AM


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Jean-Christophe Le Coze, Michèle Dupré. Safety as a network, digital and global reality. Safety Science, 2022, 156, pp.105896. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2022.105896⟩. ⟨ineris-03830828⟩



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