Formal and Informal Safety Management
The Importance of Ethnographic Research for Safety Surveys
Safety surveys normally focus on the influence of formal safety management (bureaucracy) on safety performances, while neglecting the impact of informal coping strategies (craftsman-ship) that are the main topic of ethnographic safety studies. Based on a survey in a Dutch en-ergy company (N=265) we show this negligence is problematic. First, the effect of formal safety management on self-reported incidents and accidents depends on informal coping strategies. It is shown that informal coping strategies facilitate formal safety management. Second, informal coping strategies influence safety performances independent of formal safety management. The perceived utilisation of tacit knowledge improves safety records (i.e. self-reported incidents and accidents) because it reduces unsafe behaviour, while perceived presence of professional discretion worsens it because it enhances unsafe behaviour. Our find-ings show that the findings of ethnographic safety studies can be incorporated fruitfully in safety surveys.