Risk, trust, and safety culture in U.K. train operating companies

Risk Anal. 2006 Oct;26(5):1105-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2006.00819.x.


Organizational safety culture reflects the attitudes and behaviors that individuals share in considering and reacting to hazards and risks. We first argue that trust is an underdeveloped and important concept in relation to theories of safety culture and high-reliability organizations. The article then reports findings from a two-year qualitative study of train operating companies (TOCs) in the United Kingdom, which sought to explore in detail the linkages between safety culture and the postprivatized railway industry. In-depth interviews and focus groups were carried out with a sample of over 500 employees, from four organizations, and representing all key functional levels. Our analysis suggests that the 1993 privatization, and subsequent organizational restructuring of the U.K. railway industry, has had important repercussions for both safety culture and trust relationships. We explore our findings in relation to three key constructs within "safe organizations" theories (namely, flexibility, commitment, and learning), and discuss how the safe organization model might be usefully supplemented by a consideration of trust issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't