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|The Nuclear Industry Cultural Map|
|Written by David G Broadbent|
Evaluating the safety culture of a particular organisation poses some challenges. Cultural assumptions, which influence behaviour and, therefore, safety performance, are not always clearly observable. Edgar Schein presents a model of culture that helps in understanding how the concept can be assessed. In Schein’s model, culture is assumed to be a pattern of shared basic assumptions, which are invented, discovered or developed by an organisation as it learns to cope with problems of survival and cohesiveness.
According to Schein’s three-level model, an organisation’s safety culture can be assessed by evaluating the organisation’s artefacts, claimed values, and basic assumptions. On the first level of the model are the organisation’s artefacts. Artefacts are the visible signs and behaviours of the organisation, such as its written mission, vision, and policy statements. The second level consists of the organisation’s claimed or espoused values. Examples of claimed values might include mottos such as, “safety first” or “maintaining a blame-free work environment.” The third level is comprised of the basic assumptions of the individuals within the organisation. Basic assumptions are the beliefs and attitudes that individuals bring into the organisation or that are developed as a result of experience within the organisation. Examples of basic assumptions may include, “safety can always be improved” or “everyone can contribute to safety.” The organisation’s basic assumptions regarding safety culture are less tangible than the artefacts and claimed values. They are often taken for granted within the organisation that shares the culture.
Artefacts, claimed values, and basic assumptions are evaluated to identify the presence or absence of the characteristics that have been found to be important for the existence of a positive safety culture. These characteristics include: