Industrial Safety: Principles for Safety Management based on Emperical Studies

Abstract: Although safety management has developed considerably during the last decades, occupational accidents still contribute to work-related health problems worldwide. This thesis investigates occupational accidents in production environments, explores existing safety management and provides some insights into why it fails to function in a satisfactory manner.

An abductive approach was used, which implies continuous interplay between the theoretical and empirical world. Empirical studies were performed in the food industry. A systems model was created, three levels of which were studied: conceptual, strategic and operative. An exploration of existing safety management was carried out by means of a literature review of safety analysis methods as well as studies of three case companies. The empirical studies entailed a survey of production systems and interviews at different organisational levels. Finally, a theoretical paper investigated the possibilities of integrating safety and robustness.

It was found that companies addressed safety problems by technological solutions and that there were conflicts between safety and other company goals. The actors involved had different mental models of safety and accidents, which led to problems in the operationalisation of goals and policies at conceptual level. Risks and accidents were often addressed by normative approaches, which, however, were not completely applicable to the dynamic systems. This, in combination with e.g. lack of system overview and a strong focus on product rather than production led to trade?offs at operative level between safety and productivity.

The thesis concludes that conflicting goals and mental models should be made explicit. Companies should also aim towards a balance between technological solutions and organisational solutions addressing operators' knowledge and skills. Similarly, the aim should be a balance between normative and decentralised approaches. There is a need to integrate safety and robustness related issues at the strategic level of the system.

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