Safe and future-proof: Aligning safety culture framework and organizational future orientation

Nadezhda Gotcheva, Riitta Molarius, Mikko Dufva, Nina Wessberg

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference articleScientific


    Societies today are profoundly affected by sweeping megatrends, such as globalisation, digitalization, aging, climate change and resource scarcity, that challenge current organizations in different ways. Work is increasingly carried out in virtual organizational networks and a growing number of companies perform their activities in multicultural environments due to the globalisation and increasing interdependence. Demographic changes, such as aging create challenges regarding knowledge transfer and sustaining skilled labour. Resource scarcity may challenge the production processes, while climate change may have a variety of impacts by creating exceptional weather conditions, which may cause major events with large-scale implications. Navigating these megatrends and dealing with the ever-changing operational environment is a must for ensuring organizational survival and success. In safety-critical organizations, such as nuclear, mining, aviation and healthcare, it is especially important to detect and interpret weak signals on changes and to react properly, since failure to do so may have significant safety consequences for people and the environment. This study aims at exploring how to future-proof and enhance safety in safety-critical organizations in a dynamic context marked by a variety of megatrends. This conceptual work draws on cultural studies, safety science, organizational science and foresight research to propose an alignment of a safety culture framework and organizational future orientation. A good safety culture can be seen as the organizational potential for safety; the ability and willingness to succeed in varying conditions and to understand and act upon the risks on a daily basis (Reiman and Oedewald, 2009; Oedewald et al., 2011; Hollnagel, 2011). Organizational future orientation is defined as the ability to identify and interpret changes in the environment and trigger adequate responses to ensure long-term survival and success (Rohrbeck and Bade, 2012). The challenge is that organizations need to balance between being aware to the context "here and now" and being future-oriented. This study suggests that enhancing both safety culture and foresight culture strengthens the ability and willingness of organizations to make sense of what is deemed to be relevant or possible today and in the future. It is proposed that the integration of safety culture approach and organizational future orientation enhances organizational capabilities to develop mindfulness to new risks, new hazard mechanisms or other unexpected conditions, which could be based on emerging social, technical or environmental megatrends.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    Event21st Nordic Research Conference on Safety, NoFS2015 - Helsinki, Finland
    Duration: 25 Aug 201527 Aug 2015


    Conference21st Nordic Research Conference on Safety, NoFS2015
    Abbreviated titleNoFS2015


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