1998-11-09

Moving Toward an Organizational Safety Culture 983112

The exponential growth of the airline industry has placed a renewed exigency on identifying ways to cultivate work cultures in which safety permeates all levels and error control is manifested in the actions of all employees throughout their dailey work effort. Promoted by many industry leaders and safety experts as “safety cultures”, these work cultures have at their core a central and pervasive focus on error management and the promotion of safety at all levels within all types of operations. While the concept is endorsed by many, there remains a generalized state of confusion on what exactly a safety culture is, how it may be developed in a specific company, and whether or not it is attainable within the context of the aviation workplace.
This paper reviews what experts suggest are the necessary attributes of a safety culture and what it must have as well as what it must become in order to be effective at fostering safety at all levels. It explores the difference between “corporate cultures” and “work cultures” and discusses how a correctly developed corporate culture provides the opportunity for a safety culture to develop but does not insure its establishment. The paper will relate research findings concerning how local cultures are influenced by charismatic workers and managers who actually define the cultural focus of the workplace. The paper will conclude by answering the nagging question of how safety culture might be successfully developed within the context of the aviation maintenance work environment by discussng an experimental strategy currently being evaluated by Purdue researchers to integrate safety adovcacy into aviation maintenance environments.

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