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Incident reporting or storytelling? Competing schemes in a safety-critical and hazardous work setting
Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Technology and Social Change.
2008 (English)In: Safety Science, ISSN 0925-7535, Vol. 46, no 8, 1205-1222 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Incident-reporting schemes can prevent accidents through organizational learning from incidents. However, many occupational health and safety incidents go unreported. For these reasons I undertook ethnographic fieldwork to investigate the low level of reporting among railway maintenance technicians in Sweden and the role played by informal storytelling within their occupational communities. The study found that the incident-reporting scheme is not integrated in technicians' practices and cultural frame and does not seem to serve their interests. Storytelling, however, is an integral part of technicians' practices and their accident etiology and creates a way for them to address risks, at least from a narrow perspective. The occupational etiology is based upon technicians' local practice, which emphasizes vigilance, carefulness, skill, responsibility, and the like, and usually neglects root causes. This frame is rational and intelligible, given the technicians' limited power to influence their working conditions, as well as their limited training and the poor feedback they receive when incidents are reported. However, the occupationally-based perspective impedes the articulation of a systems perspective that could be used for organizational learning. To make an incident-reporting scheme work, employees must be given ownership, must know how and why to use it, and need feedback on root causes. These root causes must also be addressed. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 46, no 8, 1205-1222 p.
Keyword [en]
Non-reporting, Storytelling, Accident etiology, Organizational learning, Breakdowns, Occupational communities
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-43146DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2007.06.024Local ID: 72081OAI: diva2:264004
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2011-01-10

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Sanne, Johan M
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