Product safety culture: a preliminary study in the UK manufacturing industry

Lucia Suhanyiova, Amy Irwin, Rhona Flin* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Do accidents where users are injured or killed by unsafe products reveal underlying weaknesses in the safety culture of the responsible organisations? While manufacturing firms have long been concerned with organizational culture factors that relate to product quality, there has been much less attention to the relationship with consumer safety. Product safety culture can be defined as the attitudes, norms, beliefs and behaviours of staff in manufacturing organisations that affect the integrity of a product in relation to the well-being of its users. There has been limited research into this type of safety culture, with the exception of several studies from the food industry. This exploratory study in one large company adopted a qualitative approach to identify the dimensions of product safety culture in the manufacture of engineered products. Study 1 consisted of phone interviews (8 managers, 2 workforce). Study 2 was on two UK manufacturing sites where interviews and focus groups were conducted (46 participants in total: 7 managers, 39 workforce). The transcriptions were coded using inductive thematic analysis to identify the main components of product safety culture. The findings indicated six principal dimensions: management commitment to product safety, communication, safety systems, trust, understanding of safety systems and product safety ethic. The first five dimensions are well-established components of culture relating to worker and process safety. The last dimension appears to be a distinctive component (compared to other types of safety culture) relating to an employee’s moral and ethical stance toward product safety, where user well-being is considered during product manufacture. This ethical component is a more novel feature which suggests that fostering concern for unknown product users may be an additional facet of product safety culture worth investigating in the effort to reduce the risks to consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Early online date19 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • product safety culture
  • management commitment
  • communication
  • safety systems
  • product safety ethic
  • product users

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