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Article Dans Une Revue Safety Science Année : 2021

Safety science: A situated science

Corinne Bieder


A number of key concepts have punctuated the development of Safety science. Reflecting on what the next ones could be is a tricky exercise. How come certain safety concepts or theories or dispositive in the sense of Foucault emerge and become ‘dominating concepts’ or turning points in safety science? The paper considers a case from the past, namely that of Safety Management System (SMS), as a proxy to shed light on this question. The origins of SMS are explored to unravel what lies behind its emergence and development. The research is based on a literature review and open-ended interviews of 15 people who played a personal part in safety science or practices development before and/or when SMS started to emerge. Overall, the sample of interviewees represents a range of safety stakeholders (academia, industry, regulatory bodies, consulting companies) and high-risk industries to provide a diversity of perspectives on the emergence of SMS. The analysis of this material highlights several aspects that contributed to converge towards an approach like the SMS, beyond the identified limitations of safety science at that time. First, the intellectual context in which SMS emerged, was that of major developments on organizational and managerial dimensions of safety. Second, most safety stakeholders had motivations beyond safety enhancement to move towards a new approach. Last, the overall environment, way beyond safety and high-risk industries, facilitated the convergence towards an approach like the SMS. Eventually, this research demonstrates that safety is a situated science, situated not only in time, but also in a much wider economic, industrial, political, societal context. Putting safety into such perspective opens new avenues for reflecting about the future of safety science considering current trends not only in safety but also way beyond.
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hal-03040731 , version 1 (15-12-2022)


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Corinne Bieder. Safety science: A situated science: An exploration through the lens of Safety Management Systems. Safety Science, 2021, 135, pp.105063. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2020.105063⟩. ⟨hal-03040731⟩
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