Current Psychology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 5–17 | Cite as

Assessing the state of organizational safety—culture or climate?

  • Kathryn J. Mearns
  • Rhona Flin

Abstract

This article explores the concepts of safety culture and safety climate in an attempt to determine which is the more useful for describing an organization's “state of safety.” From a review of the literature purporting to measure safety culture or safety climate, it is argued that, although the two terms are often interchangeable, they are actually distinct but related concepts and should be treated accordingly. The term “safety climate” best describes employees' perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about risk and safety, typically measured by questionnaire surveys and providing a “snapshot” of the current state of safety. “Safety culture” is a more complex and enduring trait reflecting fundamental values, norms, assumptions and expectations, which to some extent reside in societal culture. The expression of these “cultural” elements, perhaps, can be seen through safety management practices which are reflected in the safety climate. Basically, measurement of safety culture requires in-depth investigation including an analysis of how organizational members interact to form a shared view of safety.

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Copyright information

© Springer 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn J. Mearns
    • 1
  • Rhona Flin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AberdeenOld Aberdeen

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