Sharing 'worlds of risk': improving communication with crew resource management

Kathryn J. Mearns, Rhona Flin, Paul O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on the role of context and culture in shaping both the perception and experience of risk. Evidence from a number of industrial psychology studies indicates that workers' perceptions of risk are influenced by the context and culture of their work environment, leading to different 'worlds of risk' between professional groups and levels of seniority within the work organization. If perception of risk and safety is not a unified phenomenon within organizational settings, how does one achieve the ' shared attitudes, perceptions and beliefs with respect to risk and safety' which are considered fundamental to the development and propagation of a good safety culture? Safety is a dynamic phenomenon that requires continual monitoring from a number of different perspectives in order to prevent incidents. Within the work environment, the ability to communicate to others about potential hazards and the ability to take cognisance of such warnings is fundamental for controlling risks. Professional and social barriers, however, can often prevent such a positive state being achieved. This paper outlines the evidence for the existence of safety subcultures in organizational settings and how conflict and misunderstandings between individuals and teams can lead to accidents and incidents. It is proposed that a type of human factors training (Crew Resource Management), first developed in the aviation industry and now expanded to other domains, may play an important role in improving industrial safety by teaching relevant skills such as communication, leadership, team-working, personal limitations and decision making. CRM may help to break down the barriers that exist between subcultures, allowing personnel with different perspectives on the work situation to share information and work together as a team to resolve problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-392
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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