Modeling safety culture as a socially emergent phenomenon: a case study in aircraft maintenance
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Safety culture is often understood as encompassing organizational members’ shared attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values associated with safety. Safety culture theory development is fraught with inconsistencies and superficiality of measurement methods, because the dynamic and political nature of culture is often ignored. Traditionally, safety culture is analyzed by survey-based approaches. In this paper we propose a novel, systemic, interdisciplinary approach for investigating safety culture that combines multi-agent system modeling with organizational ethnography. By using this approach, mechanisms of emergence of safety culture from daily practices, operations and interactions of organizational actors can be modeled and analyzed. The approach is illustrated by a case study from the aircraft maintenance domain, based on existing ethnographic data. Using the proposed approach we were able to reproduce and explain emergent characteristic patterns of commitment to safety in the maintenance organization from this study. The model can be used for theory development and as a management tool to evaluate non-linear impacts of organizational arrangements on workers’ commitment to safety.