The corporate quest for zero accidents: A case study into the response to safety transgressions in the industrial sector

S.F.M. Twaalfhoven, W.J. Kortleven

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Abstract

Since the 1990s, the idea that accidents should be reduced to zero is gaining growing acclaim in the fields of road safety and occupational safety and health. As most of the literature on this so-called Zero Accident Vision (ZAV) deals exclusively with its application to road safety, which is a public sector responsibility, there is a need to learn more about the way it is implemented by private companies. This paper reports on a case study into the zero accident approach followed by steel company Tata Steel IJmuiden (the Netherlands). The study suggests that private sector advocates of the ZAV, unlike their public sector counterparts, tend to view safety aspirations and economic considerations as mutually reinforcing. However, it is shown that this harmony model does not entirely hold in practice. The findings also highlight another discrepancy. Characteristic of the ZAV is a systems-theoretic focus on identifying root causes of unsafe situations rather than on individual error and blame. Yet employee behavior appears to be a major target for Tata's safety policy and several managers insist on punishing unsafe behavior. Paradoxically, this punitive tendency seems partly stimulated by and at the same time could hinder the very ambition of eradicating all accidents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-68
Number of pages12
JournalSafety Science
Volume86
Issue numberJuly
Early online date1 Mar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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