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 Activity name  SC_AIM Safety culture assurance and improvement methods in complex projects
 Project summary  

The concept of Safety Culture was first coined to explain the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the late 1980s. From the very beginning, the concept aimed at highlighting and illustrating that safety cannot ever be guaranteed by technical means alone, but rather safety depends heavily on management, leadership, and so called human and organizational factors. Culture is repeatedly created and recreated as members behave and communicate in ways that seem natural, obvious, and unquestionable to them (Reiman & Rollenhagen, forthcoming). Despite a long research tradition, there is a large variance in conceptualisations of safety culture, ranging from descriptive studies on the social construction of safety to normative models of ideal safety culture/climate dimensions. Empirical studies of culture improvement in the safety field are scarce (Hale et al. 2010), especially in comparison to the amount of research on identifying

the elements of safety culture or evaluation of safety Culture. Major projects in the nuclear industry are typically carried out by networks of companies. Current safety culture and safety management models and practices are largely focused on single organisations and it is far from clear how to apply them in the dynamically changing project networks. Traditional cultural approaches emphasize that it takes time and certain amount of continuity to create a culture, both of which are in short supply in projects with short time frames, diversity in both personnel and companies involved, and often a high personnel turnover. Antonsen (2009) highlighted

that safety culture studies seem to embody a harmonious view of the organization to be

analyzed. Several issues remain unanswered, e.g., what should a safety culture improvement or assurance program be like in an “organization”, which is actually a dynamic network of actors from different companies? How to utilize the concept of safety culture in network and project settings? A basic premise of the project is that so far there has been a lot of attention on how to

diagnose and evaluate safety culture, but not so much on how to actually improve the safety culture. A second premise is that improvement of safety culture in projects sets some unique requirements due to e.g. multiple organizations interacting, diverse background of personnel, schedules and contract issues etc. The same methods may not work that have been applied in operating power plants. Further, the long supply chains and the licensee’s responsibility to oversee the safety culture of the entire network put more demands on safety culture assurance methods. The project is planned as s two years' effort (2016-2017) and has two aims:

1. To identify and specify methods to improve and facilitate safety culture in

complex projects

2. To identify and specify methods to assure safety culture in complex Projects


The different ways of improving / facilitating safety culture can be for example the use

of safety culture ambassadors, learning from experience, tool box talks, pre and post

job briefs, cross-organizational working groups, and training.

Assurance methods can include auditing, self-assessment and independent assessment

as well as questionnaires.

 Lead organisation  VTT Technical Research Center of Finland
 Contact person  Teemu Reiman,, +358 50 342 7268


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