Safety Culture: An Integration of Existing Models and a Framework for Understanding Its Development

Objective: This study reviews theoretical models of organizational safety culture to uncover key factors in safety culture development.
Background: Research supports the important role of safety culture in organizations, but theoretical progress has been stunted by a disjointed literature base. It is currently unclear how different elements of an organizational system function to influence safety culture, limiting the practical utility of important research findings.
Method: We reviewed existing models of safety culture and categorized model dimensions by the proposed function they serve in safety culture development. We advance a framework grounded in theory on organizational culture, social identity, and social learning to facilitate convergence toward a unified approach to studying and supporting safety culture.
Results: Safety culture is a relatively stable social construct, gradually shaped over time by multilevel influences. We identify seven enabling factors that create conditions allowing employees to adopt safety culture values, assumptions, and norms; and four behaviors used to enact them. The consequences of these enacting behaviors provide feedback that may reinforce or revise held values, assumptions, and norms.
Conclusion: This framework synthesizes information across fragmented conceptualizations to clearly depict the dynamic nature of safety culture and specific drivers of its development. We suggest that safety culture development may depend on employee learning from behavioral outcomes, conducive enabling factors, and consistency over time.

Source: Bisbey, T. M., Kilcullen, M. P., Thomas, E. J., Ottosen, M. J., Tsao, K. et Salas, E. (2019). Human Factors.

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