Key Takeaways

- Organization theories can help OSH professionals better identify and understand organizational issues that reduce safety program performance.

- Such theoretical perspectives can also help OSH professionals identify and correct performance reducing issues that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

- This article presents OSH professionals with a set of theoretical tools that can be used to increase their understanding of select organizational issues that reduce OSH performance.

The notion of a conceptual toolbox may sound odd to OSH professionals. However, articles presenting conceptual toolboxes have been published in business journals to help researchers advance management research (e.g., Shook et al., 2009). This article presents a toolbox to equip safety professionals with a set of conceptual tools not commonly found in OSH training programs or reference literature. The aim is to provide OSH professionals with new perspectives that will increase their understanding of issues that may reduce OSH performance.

Safety Performance Reducing Issues & Accompanying Conceptual Perspectives

This section discusses several organizational issues that transcend industries and can reduce OSH performance. Table 1 introduces each issue and offers an accompanying conceptual framework that OSH professionals can use to better understand and resolve the issue.

Issue: Disregarding or Not Understanding Causal Relationships & Interdependences

Systems thinking is a powerful tool for analyzing and resolving many OSH issues. According to the CDC (2017), systems thinking involves viewing problems by extending their boundaries so that interrelationships can be identified. Manuele (2019) refers to systems thinking as a “diagnostic tool.” The root of systems thinking comes from systems theory, largely drawn from life sciences literature. It argues that organizations are ecosystems of interconnected and interdependent components (Thompson, 1967). The interdependences between the system components are key to understanding the systems perspective.

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