What we talk about when we talk about HSE and culture – A mapping and analysis of the academic discourses

Studio Apertura
​This paper is an extensive review of 229 papers addressing HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) and culture published between 1992 and 2013. The review has been conducted in order to analyse how “culture” has been conceptualised, and whether there is a relation between these conceptualisations and the authors' experience base. The review of the papers has been supported by a statistical analysis of data obtained by a structured and systematic registration of information from papers addressing “culture” and “HSE”. Bivariate correspondence analysis has been used as the statistical method in order to explore possible associations between the constructed categorical variables. The statistical analysis reveals that different cultural perspectives are associated with the professional background of the authors and the research designs that have been applied. Our findings confirm much of the critique that has been addressed regarding the use of culture as a concept. The review shows that the literature first and foremost addresses safety. An overwhelming majority of the published research has been conducted in North America, Europe and Australia. We argue that this represents a bias in the research that contributes to inaccurate generalisations and conclusions, especially related to discussions regarding “bad” or “sound” cultures. Some perspectives on culture are dominant, such as the conceptualisation of culture as: 1) shared and aligned perceptions and attitudes, 2) culture as an ideational entity, and 3) culture as one factor among several factors that influence Health, Safety and/or Environment. Relatively few papers conceptualise culture as: 4) holistic metaphor, used in order to denote the systemic relations that influence HSE or as, 5) something that develops in the interaction between people within a particular organisational context. Finally, interpretative approaches, taking the perspective of the actors, are marginal.