The topic of safety culture has received much attention, and for good reason. Research and experience demonstrate that the level of safety performance an organization can achieve is dictated by its culture. Petersen (2001) sums it up succinctly, "The culture of the organization sets the tone for everything in safety" (p. 123). Safety culture is an important subculture stemming from an organization’s set of practices and underlying assumptions.
Cultural Contributions to Disasters
In the few decades, several spectacular and tragic events have occurred, followed by thorough investigations made available to the public. From these de-tailed reports, it has been recognized that organizational culture and the resulting safety culture are often implicated as primary causes in these incidents.
For example, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 demonstrated that even a state-of-the-art organization had cultural is-sues that affected safety performance. The term safety culture had been recently coined, and the investigation revealed communication issues at NASA, including a top-down, command-and-control culture that inhibited both engineers from communicating up the line and upper management from listening to communication from lower levels in the organization.
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