”We take measures as soon as we identify a hazard, but accidents occur anyway. We try to identify machinery and areas in our production plant where accidents are more common, but we see no such patterns. The accidents seem stochastic. We don’t know how to approach the problem.”
This is the voice of a production manager, a person who demonstrated a great and sincere commitment to safety but still was unable to prevent occupational accident in the plant. The reason is, as we see it, that the traditional manner of understanding accidents, by focusing the physical/technological environment, and rules and regulations, is not sufficient. Safety is also to a large extent dependent on social interaction, and risks grounded in deficient social interaction do not manifest themselves through the sought patterns. Good social interaction contributes to relations characterized by mutual trust and shared responsibility. To be able to increase occupational safety, but also other types of safety and security, we need in-depth knowledge on how safety and security is influenced by psychological and social factors in interaction with the physical environment and the organizational structures. It is the goal of the research team Safety, Organization and Leadership to contribute to such knowledge.
Theoretical grounding and empirical approach
Our theoretical basis is within organizational psychology, specifically regarding organizational climate and culture. We largely apply longitudinal study designs, to be better able to understand causal mechanisms. We also develop, test and evaluate organizational interventions to increase the knowledge on how “good organizations” may be developed in practice. We apply quantitative as well as qualitative methodologies, and develop psychometric instruments to measure safety and security climates. We perform our empirical research in a variety of occupational branches, such as construction industry, healthcare, public administration, mining industry and flight services.
Organizational complexity and competing demands
We take a specific interest in the complexity of organizations. A successful organization must provide good working conditions and a high level of safety for its employees. But it must also be efficient and innovative. Research on the work environment, quality and efficiency in organizations is normally performed within different and well separated research fields, applying an either/or perspective. Practical implementation of research results, as well as organizational goal attainment, however, requires a both/and perspective. How do paradox and value conflicts influence occupational safety and health? How do they influence patient safety in healthcare organizations? How may the organization support their employees to better handle value conflicts, and thus obtain positive effects on health and safety as well as on organizational efficiency and quality? These are issues that we approach in several of our studies, in industry as well as in healthcare, as shown below.
Here we describe ongoing and closed research projects. Klick on the titles to learn more about each project.