Episode Summary

On this episode of Safety of Work, we discuss “safety culture” and what that actually means.

Episode Notes

To frame our discussion, we reference the paper What We Talk About When We Talk About HSE and Culture.

Please send us your further questions of safety culture, so we can dig into more specifics in later episodes.


  • How “safety culture” came about in the 1970’s.
  • What Chernobyl has to do with safety culture.
  • Safety culture vs. safety climate.
  • What the paper studied and what it concluded.
  • The factors that influence the definition of safety culture.
  • Who studies and talks about safety culture the least.
  • Types of studies done on safety culture.
  • Practical takeaways.


“The argument is, really, that culture only matters, because it influences climate. And climate’s what we measure and what we try to change.”

“42% of the papers are by engineering authors. 30% of them are by psychology authors. 14% from the health sciences. 10% from the social sciences. 3% from business. Which I find remarkable, given that organizational culture comes out of social science of organizations.”

“…That’s remarkable that 30% of the papers weren’t empirical in any sense. They were just people talking about safety culture as if they knew about it or summarizing other people who had talked about it.”


Bye, R. J., Hollnagel, E., Aalberg, A. L., & Røyrvik, J. O. D. (2020). What We Talk About When We Talk About HSE and Culture A mapping and analysis of the academic discourses. Safety Science129, 104846.