From the surface to the underlying meaning: analysis of senior managers' safety culture perceptions

L. S. Fruhen, K. J. Mearns, R. Flin, B. Kirwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Senior managers can influence safety culture and it is therefore important to understand how they think about this aspect of their organisation. Examining senior managers’ interpretations of safety culture (via content and artefacts like language), is one way to address this issue. Safety culture descriptions obtained through interviews with senior managers (N = 8) from two air traffic management organisations in Europe were subjected to content analysis based on Reason’s (1997) safety culture model and linguistic analysis (using Leximancer). The content analysis indicated ‘just culture’ as a dominant theme in senior managers’ thinking about safety culture. Close links between the linguistic themes ‘people’ and ‘safety’ were found in both organisations. Senior managers from Organisation 1 viewed ‘management’ as crucial for safety culture and the linguistic analysis suggested flatter hierarchies and communication might facilitate their approach. Organisation 2 was characterised by a focus on ‘reporting culture’, ‘performance’, ‘data’ and ‘accountability’. The findings of the two complementary methods of analysis illustrated how the conscious, as well as the subconscious, levels of understanding safety culture might be related. Organisations may benefit from an investigation of their leaders’ safety culture views through linguistic analysis, in addition to questionnaires and other measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-334
Number of pages9
JournalSafety Science
Early online date18 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • safety culture
  • senior managers
  • content
  • artefacts
  • Leximancer


Dive into the research topics of 'From the surface to the underlying meaning: analysis of senior managers' safety culture perceptions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this