A Qualitative Systematic Review on the Application of the Normalisation of Deviance Phenomenon Within High-Risk Industries

Nejc Sedlar* (Corresponding Author), Amy Irwin, Douglas Martin, Ruby Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: The concept of normalisation of deviance describes the gradual acceptance of deviant observations and practices. It is founded upon the gradual desensitisation to risk experienced by individuals or groups who recurrently deviate from standard operating procedures without encountering negative consequences. Since its inception, normalisation of deviance has seen extensive, but segmented, application across numerous high-risk industrial contexts. The current paper describes a systematic review of the existing literature on the topic of normalisation of deviance within high-risk industrial settings.

Method: Four major databases were searched in order to identify relevant academic literature, with 33 academic papers meeting all inclusion criteria. Directed content analysis was used to analyse the texts.

Results: Based on the review, an initial conceptual framework was developed to encapsulate identified themes and their interactions; key themes linked to the normalisation of deviance included risk normalisation, production pressure, culture, and a lack of negative consequences.

Conclusions: While preliminary, the present framework offers relevant insights into the phenomenon that may help guide future analysis using primary data sources and aid in the development of intervention methods.

Practical Applications: Normalisation of deviance is an insidious phenomenon that has been noted in several high-profile disasters across a variety of industrial settings. A number of organisational factors allow for and/or propagate this process, and as such, the phenomenon should be considered as an aspect of safety evaluations and interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-305
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Early online date18 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Normalization of deviance
  • Risk normalization
  • Systematic review
  • High-risk industry
  • Safety


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