Too Individualistic for Safety Culture? Non-Traffic Related Work Safety Among Heavy Goods Vehicle Drivers

This article reports on a study of non-traffic related work safety among drivers of heavy goods vehicles in Denmark. In the heavy goods vehicle transport (HGV) sector only 6.4% of workplace accidents involving drivers are traffic related. HGV work is characterized by solitary work, as drivers tend to work at a physical distance from their own company and their working environment is also influenced by the working environment of other companies e.g. the places where they deliver goods. This study focuses on an analysis of HGV drivers’ and managers’ differentiated understandings of risk and safety and its management within an organizational context. The situational focus involves viewing HGV drivers’ working environment as a part of the organizational structure as well as of other social relationships. An understanding of safety culture as practice is applied with the view of identifying values and attitudes as well as organizational and technical aspects in relation to how individualist or collectivist understandings of risk and safety influence the working environment in HGVs. The study applied a mixed methods approach and in this article the qualitative interviews conducted with drivers and managers is the primary data source. This study suggests a widespread understanding of drivers as being individually oriented in their work, from drivers and management alike. However, the study also demonstrates that, in conducting their work, the drivers are actually interdependent, and share knowledge frequently, albeit informally. The organizational structure of the company shapes their individual attitudes towards safety but they also report being dependent on relationships with, and information from, their fellow colleagues, former colleagues and friends who shape their understandings and attitudes towards hazards and safety practices. The analysis points to risk-taking and unsafe practices as prevalent among HGV drivers, who often refer to risk as trivial and the management of such risks as one’s own responsibility. Knowledge of how to manage risks in everyday practice is shown to be principally related to personal experiences but also to the good advice and examples of fellow drivers. The analysis points to interdependent and collectivist practices among HGV drivers even though they are perceived as being individualistically oriented when it comes to safety. Therefore, non-traffic related safety practices, in this case the loading and unloading of vehicles, occur in the grey zone of organizational safety management. Despite the fact that organizational safety initiatives are initiated, the management sees limited possibilities for enforcing them and hence safety practice is often left to the individual driver. A safety culture perspective might enhance work safety among HGV drivers if one is able to understand workplace culture in a pluralistic way. Collectivist practice among the drivers can be utilized in order to improve knowledge sharing and situational safety practices. The informal communication identified among the drivers might offer a new model for safety initiatives based on more collectivist, albeit informal, safety culture practices on behalf of HGV companies.

Language

  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01601886
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 6 2016 4:29PM