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  • Ecology
  • Geography


To understand the way in which people act in environments which are inherently potentially dangerous it is necessary to understand how they conceptualize the organization-environment context in which they carry out their activities. It is only by revealing and gaining insight into the cognitive landscape of safety that an understanding of safety behaviour can be achieved. A study of conceptualizations of safety activities at an industrial plant in South Wales, UK was carried out as part of a larger project into safety attitudes and attitude metamorphoses. The participants in the study were drawn from one of three groups; Managers, Supervisors, and Workers. Data were collected using the Multiple Sorting Task procedure. The multiple sorting task allows the ways in which people think about their context - social, physical and organizational - to emerge with the minimum of constraint. The use of the analysis technique of MSA then allows structure to be placed on the people's conceptualizations and so allows them to be compared. A list of safety activities to be sorted by the participants was generated from pilot work and literature reviews. The participants were asked to sort the activities according to each of three constructs provided by the authors, and in relation to a fourth of their own generation; a free sort. The categories used by the participants were generated by themselves. The provided sort criteria were; i) Importance of each activity for safety, ii) the degree of emphasis given to the activity by the management, and Hi) the people who are responsible for each activity. The data were analyzed using the multidimensional scaling (MDS) method of Multidimensional Scalogram Analysis (MSA). The results of the analysis reveal differences in conceptualizations for each of the three groups. Further, they show workers' conceptualizations of safety to be closer to those of the management than are the supervisors. Beyond the basic differences which relate to organizational and environmental roles, there is an underlying structure of safety conceptualizations which is common to all three groups and visible in each of the four sorts. These results show that an overall framework is available for structuring safety conceptualizations, as well as pointing to the need to pay particular attention to supervisors conceptualizations if metamorphosis is to reflect a synthesis.

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