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Journal Articles Safety Science Year : 2019

Safety as strategy : Mistakes, failures and fiascos in high-risk systems


The aim of this article is to explore the contribution of powerful actors of organisations to the construction of safety in high-risk systems. Accident investigation reports and empirical research of daily operations of high-risk systems have targeted organisational issues since the 1990s. However, although one observes in safety research a group of disciplines contributing to advance knowledge in this direction, such as sociology, management or political science, nothing much is available in the field of strategy. Yet, the argument of this article is that it is useful to also frame the study of safety and accident from a strategic angle of analysis. In a first section, safety research is briefly introduced, then in a second section the field of strategy is explored, including studies of strategic failures. Reasons for the relative absence of an interest in the relation between strategy and safety are advanced and argued. It is believed that there is a need to advance our knowledge on the topic of safety from the point of view of the psychology and sociology of executives and top managers, particularly in relation to strategy. In a last section, illustrations of how strategic decision making matters tremendously for our understanding of safety are introduced and discussed. Outlines of a research agenda are described. Overall, this article proposes to reformulate the notion of ‘latent causes’ of disasters as various degrees of strategic breakdown.
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ineris-03319053 , version 1 (11-08-2021)



Jean-Christophe Le Coze. Safety as strategy : Mistakes, failures and fiascos in high-risk systems. Safety Science, 2019, 116, pp.259-274. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2019.02.023⟩. ⟨ineris-03319053⟩


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