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The limits to safety? Culture, politics, learning and man-made disasters

Pidgeon, Nicholas Frank 1997. The limits to safety? Culture, politics, learning and man-made disasters. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 5 (1) , pp. 1-14. 10.1111/1468-5973.00032

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Three interrelated questions are posed. First, what is the significance of culture for theories of institutional resilience and vulnerability? Second, what are the cultural possibilities for organizational safety and learning? Third, can a theory of institutional vulnerability to disaster and crisis be translated into one of practical resilience? The paper explores these issues with reference to Barry Turner’s seminal Man-Made Disasters model of system vulnerability together with more recent extensions and critiques. Attempts to move from this framework to a theoretical characterization of the ‘safe’ organization are outlined, as is parallel research on high reliability organizations. Critique of this work in the debate over the limits to safety in complex organizations has focused in particular upon the political processes which corrupt possibilities for organizational learning. It is argued that such political problems, and in particular that of blame in organizations, ultimately require political solutions. Examples are given of solutions in aviation monitoring systems.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD61 Risk Management
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0966-0879
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:11

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