Balancing Safety and Accountability
A just culture protects people's honest mistakes from being seen as culpable. But what is an honest mistake, or rather, when is a mistake no longer honest? It is too simple to assert that there should be consequences for those who 'cross the line'. Lines don't just exist out there, ready to be crossed or obeyed. We - people - construct those lines; and we draw them differently all the time, depending on the language we use to describe the mistake, on hindsight, history, tradition, and a host of other factors.
What matters is not where the line goes - but who gets to draw it. If we leave that to chance, or to prosecutors, or fail to tell operators honestly about who may end up drawing the line, then a just culture may be very difficult to achieve.
The absence of a just culture in an organization, in a country, in an industry, hurts both justice and safety. Responses to incidents and accidents that are seen as unjust can impede safety investigations, promote fear rather than mindfulness in people who do safety-critical work, make organizations more bureaucratic rather than more careful, and cultivate professional secrecy, evasion, and self-protection. A just culture is critical for the creation of a safety culture. Without reporting of failures and problems, without openness and information sharing, a safety culture cannot flourish.
Building on the enormous success of the 2007 original, Dekker revises, enhances and expands his view of just culture for this second edition, additionally tackling the key issue of how justice is created inside of organizations. The goal remains the same: to create an environment where learning and accountability are fairly and constructively balanced.