TitleWhen safety culture backfires: Unintended consequences of half-shared governance in a high tech workplace
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsEdwards, M, Jabs, LB
JournalThe Social Science Journal
Pagination707 - 723
Date Published2009
ISBN Number0362-3319

This paper applies concepts from the sociology and anthropology of organizations to understand limits to the implementation of a more effective safety culture in the workplace. It highlights unintended consequences of combining bureaucratic control and shared governance and identifies sources of inertia within already existing safety cultures. The data come from focus group interviews with workers in a research and development facility of a multinational corporation in the Western U.S. It is found that safety protocols, rules, and rhetoric, combined with efforts to give workers more responsibility for safety in the workplace, create tendencies toward worker alienation, shame with regard to injuries, complacency, and fear of bureaucratic processes. Therefore it appears that some efforts to create safety culture in the workplace may unintentionally undermine the goal of manufacturing safety.