Two sides of the same coin? Exploring the relation between safety and security in high-risk organizations

    Research outputpeer-review


    While safety in high-risk organizations has been high on the agenda for multiple decades, these organizations are now increasingly concerned about security threats. In light of this, academics and institutions have set forth the vision of a synergistic integration of safety and security, warranted by their common goal to protect people and the environment. However, it is not always clear how this vision should be enacted on the work floor. While safety and security policies share some elements, recent studies point out that their practical enactments may diverge and lead to potential tensions. Methods: Using an empirically grounded inquiry within a nuclear research center, this paper analyzes how safety and security practices interact. Our analysis reveals that, while they contain similar management frameworks and practical means, safety and security interactions are also characterized by various tensions. Mobilizing paradox theory, we highlight how these tensions are (to a large extent) rooted in three underlying paradoxes: distrust vs trust; transparency vs confidentiality; and movement enablement vs movement restriction. Practical Applications: We discuss the practical implications of these findings and, based on these, we argue that an integrated approach to safety and security should, rather than sideline tensions, promote the creation of ‘tension venues.’ Such tension venues offer spaces for reflection, and as such would enable the co-creation of innovative measures to articulate safety and security.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)184-193
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Safety Research
    StatePublished - Sep 2022

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