In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Work Place Safety

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • History and Trends
  • Skills and Knowledge and Workplace Safety
  • Work Design and Workplace Safety
  • Safety and National Cultures

Management Work Place Safety
Mark Griffin, Laura Fruhen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0124


Workplace safety is a cross-disciplinary research area that spans engineering, psychology, ergonomics, human factors. This field is vast and encompasses human, organizational, social, and technology issues and considers how they interact with each other. However, at its core is the question of how safety can be maintained with a focus on workplace and human attributes that contribute to better safety. This article focuses on the social processes and human actions that contribute to safety in organizations (see also Workplace Safety: A Review and Research Synthesis. Organizational Psychology Review [2016]). Workplace safety can be defined in terms of the absence of negative outcomes such as injury and disease, and positive behaviors and processes that contribute to health and safety for individuals and reliable operations in organizations. Workplace safety is a multifaceted, multidisciplined field, and each perspective or domain associated with it makes a valuable contribution to how workplace safety can be best understood and achieved. The topic of safety is applicable to a range of organizational contexts, but it is central in industries that face frequent and/or severe hazards and risks in their operations, such as the energy or transport sectors. Safety has also been studied in contexts where hazards and risks are less pronounced but with ongoing concerns, such as the food services industries (i.e., restaurants) or manufacturing industries. Safety is most commonly defined as the absence of negative events, as explained in “Organizational Culture as a Source of High Reliability” (California Management Review 29 [1987]: 112–127), traditionally considered as the absence of accidents, incidents, or injuries and avoiding things from going wrong or not as planned. More recent approaches toward workplace safety have expanded this view with a focus on safety as a positive outcome and to gain a better understanding of how safety is achieved when things go well and employees behave safely, which occurs most of the time, according to Safety-I and Safety-II: The Past and Future of Safety Management (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014). As a field, workplace safety research covers the technical, organizational, and human aspects of safe workplaces. This article acknowledges the technical aspects of safety and its interaction with human safety, but focuses primarily on the psychology of workplace safety and the human actions and the organizational attributes and processes that contribute to safe working conditions and safe behavior in employees.


The relevance of workplace safety is identifiable at two levels. One level is defined by the extent and frequency with which individual accidents and injuries result in serious outcomes for individuals themselves and, related to that, their families. The second level concerns how the actions of individuals and organizations can result in and contribute to tragic consequences for entire organizations, communities, and the environment through large-scale industrial accidents.

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