Safety management theory and the expeditionary organization: A critical theoretical reflection

Matthijs Moorkamp, Eric Hans Kramer, Coen van Gulijk, Ben Ale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Management of safety within organizations has become a key topic within safety science. Theorizing on this subject covers a diverse pallet of concepts such as "resilience" and "safety management systems". Recent studies indicate that safety management theory has deficiencies. Our interpretation of these deficiencies is that much confusion originates from the issue that crucial meta-theoretical assumptions are mostly implicit or applied inconsistently. In particular, we argue that these meta-theoretical assumptions are of a systems theoretical nature. Therefore, we provide a framework that will be able to explicate and reflect on systems theoretical assumptions. With this framework, we analyze the ability of two frequently used safety management theories to tackle the problem of managing safety of Dutch military expeditionary organizations. This paper will show that inconsistent and implicit application of systems theoretical assumptions in these safety management theories results in problems to tackle such a practical problem adequately. We conclude with a reflection on the pros and cons of our framework. Also, we suggest particular meta-theoretical aspects that seem to be essential for applying safety management theory to organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalSafety Science
Early online date18 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


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