Working to rule or working safely? Part 2: The management of safety rules and procedures

Saturday, 02/12/2023, 10:19(GMT +7)

Andrew Halea, b, David Borysc


Part 1, the companion paper to this paper (Hale and Borys, this issue) reviews the literature from 1986 on the management of those safety rules and procedures which relate to the workplace level in organisations. It contrasts two different paradigms of how work rules and their development and use are perceived and managed. The first is a top-down classical, rational approach in which rules are seen as static, comprehensive limits of freedom of choice, imposed on operators at the sharp end and violations are seen as negative behaviour to be suppressed. The second is a bottom-up constructivist view of rules as dynamic, local, situated constructions of operators as experts, where competence is seen to a great extent as the ability to adapt rules to the diversity of reality. That paper explores the research underlying and illustrating these two paradigms. In this second paper we draw on that literature study to propose a framework of rule management which attempts to draw the lessons from both paradigms. It places the monitoring and adaptation of rules central to its management process and emphasises the need for participation of the intended rule followers in the processes of rule-making, but more importantly in keeping those rules alive and up to date in a process of regular and explicit dialogue with first-line supervision, and through them with the technical, safety and legal experts on the system functioning. The framework is proposed for testing in the field as a benchmark for good practice.

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Source: Safety Science 55 (2013)

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