Value of Safety — VaLoSa

The problem addressed

Value is a criterion people use, often implicitly, to select and justify actions and to evaluate people and events. Values are operating philosophies or principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world. They exert major influence on the behaviour of individuals and teams and serve as broad guidelines in all situations. In this project, safety values and other supporting values for safety are addressed in the context of business strategy, corporate identity and corporate social responsibility.

Safety values are important because they underlie any safety culture. Especially in an era of deregulation, globalisation, economic downturn and the ‘changing world of work’, values and culture are more stable than management systems or priorities. These values are also a component of firms' Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.

CEOs and production managers play a key role in safety management and safety promotion in their organisation. Their commitment depends ultimately on their values and those of the organisation, and of its key stakeholders. Especially on this level, there is often a misbalance between Safety Values and Business values, leading to dilemmas and unsafe situations. By exploring the safety values and dilemmas, this project should produce insight into more successful mechanisms that have the potential to strengthen and promote safety values. The ultimate goal is to embed safety values in the values and strategies of the company.

Keywords: CSR values

Research questions

As values are abstract basic concepts, the question is how Safety Values are defined and used in practice by the key agents, especially higher managers, and how they affect employers’ and employees' decisions and behaviour at the workplace.

The project will address the following research questions:
  1. How do CEOs and production managers define the value of safety and what safety values are important for them?
  2. Can consensus be achieved between (groups of) key stakeholders on VALOSA?
  3. What dilemmas/bottlenecks are important in practicing safety values, and how can organisations effectively deal with them?
  4. What are effective/efficient ways to promote safety through communicating and sharing VALOSA?

Keywords: values bottlenecks

Scientific disciplines: sociology, psychology

Expected outputs

  • create a common understanding of how VALOSA are defined by various key stakeholders
  • identify practical dilemma’s and bottlenecks in practicing safety values, and how organisations can effectively deal with these dilemmas,
  • determine how the VALOSA play a role in daily industrial practice, at different organizational levels
  • develop a draft methodology to promote and share safety values, thereby also strengthening management commitment


The project consists of four work packages:
  1. Literature review
  2. Interviews of stakeholders
  3. Delphi study
  4. Questionnaire and observations in 3 companies

In WP1 we will conduct a descriptive literature review, based on scientific journals and other relevant material. The aims are to provide information about the general background and context safety values, to define safety value, and to explore value perspectives. The literature review will be used as a ground when developing contents for interviews (WP2) and Delphi study (WP3). The literature review will include the following topics: definition of safety values, mechanisms that form and strengthen safety values, impact of safety values at daily routines, and value related dilemmas. Moral, social, and business aspects will be notified. The review will focus on scientific journals on management, occupational safety, process safety, industrial safety and organizational psychology. Meta-analysis and reviews for last ten years will constitute the main content, but also individual studies and other relevant material will be included. The literature review will offer essential background information for WP2, WP3 and WP4.

In WP2 we will develop an interview method and form based on previous knowledge, research, and practices (WP1). A semi-structured interview will ensure that information for constructing Delphi study (WP3) and questionnaire (WP4) will be obtained. In order to get wide perspective of safety values, we will invite the CEOs and/or top management in 20 organizations at least in five European countries to participate in the interviews. They will be carried out as face-to-face interviews, or by using telephone or skype/videomeeting connections and the summary of the interview will be sent to the interviewee for revision and comments. The results will also be summarized in a report. The interviews provide practice- based information on safety values and their impact on organization’s functions. This information is essential when defining the topics and questions for Delphi study (WP3) and the questionnaire (WP4).

In WP3 we execute a Delphi study. The Delphi procedure will be used to identify to develop consensus on the value of safety and safety values. A panel of stakeholders will be asked to give their expert judgment on the value of safety, safety values and dilemmas confronted in practice. The panel for the Delphi study will include the following groups: (1) CEOs and production managers, (2) safety engineers, (3) supervisors, (4) workers or workers representatives, (5) representatives from local or national authorities (including inspections), (6) safety researchers/experts, and (7) (social and private) insurers. We will approach at least 50 members of each of these groups, from several European countries, and go for a response of at least 30 for each of these groups. We foresee two rounds in the Delphi project. For the first round, an online questionnaire will be developed, which will include the value of safety (for the organisation, society and individuals), safety values and safety supporting values, and main dilemmas in the practical application of safety values.
The experts will be invited to participate by e-mail and will be given a login code. In the first round, we will ask them to rate the relevance of the factors mentioned; they will also have the opportunity to suggest additional relevant factors. In order to find consensus, the relevance ratings of the first round will be statistically analysed. For the second round, a summary of the consensus and convergence of the first round will be provided as feedback to the panel members. In this round, the no-consensus factors and the additional items suggested in the first round will be included. The Stakeholders will then be asked give their personal motivations for their (no-consensus) scores and to reconsider their scores given the feedback from the other participants (they will be able to maintain or change their scores). The answers for the second round will also be statistically analysed. The topics for the first round will be based on the literature review and the interviews. In terms of statistical processing, medians and the interquartile ranges (IQR) will be used to define (the degree of) consensus.

In WP4 we will develop a safety value questionnaire, based on information from WP1, WP2 and WP3. First, we will conduct group interviews in focus organizations to identify additional essential topics and relevant questions. The questionnaire will include questions on perceived safety values in different organizational levels and groups, and how they affect safety performance. We will invite 1.500-2.000 persons from three Finnish companies to participate in the survey. The differences between various personnel groups will be analyzed statistically in order to recognize problems and bottlenecks in sharing values and in value communication. In the participating three organizations, we will also include observations at the work places during the second year of the project. With observations we will gather additional information about the topics of the questionnaire, especially about existing safety values and how they become concrete in daily operations and working conditions. We try to identify value conflicts in everyday work, decision making and value communication. We will assess how organizations promote and share the safety values in practice, and what factors in companies and organizations strengthen safety values. In research, part of the companies contacted will be selected from Finnish Zero Accident Forum. The Zero Accident Forum is a voluntary network of Finnish workplaces. It is open to any workplace, regardless of its size, field or level of occupational safety. What is important is to have a genuine desire to improve safety and strive towards zero accidents. The membership of the Zero Accident Forum means that the management and staff of the organization are committed to improving their own occupational safety and carrying out the work it entails.

Associated deliverables

Literature review on the Value of Safety and Safety as a Value
Intermediate report CC BY-SA published on 2015-08-25
The purpose of this paper is to review the scientific literature on the value of safety, and safety as a value. Safety can thereby be a value for organizations, for individuals (e.g. managers or, workers) and for society at large. There are quite few peer-reviewed scientific publications on the value of safety, other than the economic value. In fact, the value of safety seems and safety values are implicit in most safety research (as the aim is usually to somehow contribute to the improvement of safety). However, it is only very seldom explicitly addressed in the scientific literature. Therefore we have included also some non peer-reviewed publications in this review.

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Organizational values and valuing safety at work
Intermediate report CC BY-SA published on 2017-01-16
This document presents the second part of the Value of Safety (ValoSa) research project, which consisted of interviews at the supervisor and worker levels, as well as the “Organizational values and valuing safety at work” survey carried out in three Finnish companies. The aim of the survey was to study 1) how safety is valued in different organizational groups, 2) what kind of value conflicts come up in everyday work, decision-making and value communication, 3) how organizations promote and share the safety as a value in practice, and 4) what factors in companies and organizations can strengthen safety as a value.

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The value of safety and safety as a value
Final report Creative Commons BY-SA published on 2016-09-23
Many companies describe safety as their top priority, but does that mean that safety is a (core) value? Values are operating philosophies or principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world. Values provide guidance for people on what is good or desirable and what is not. This means that values are more stable and can be expected to have a more sustainable impact on safety than safety as “just a priority”. The research presented in this document analyzes how safety values are defined and used in practice, in particular by managers, and how they affect employers’ and employees’ decisions and behaviour at work. The work comprises three complementary activities: (1) a literature review on the value of safety and safety as a value, focusing on the moral, social and business dimensions that strengthen safety values; (2) a set of semi-structured interviews with CEOs in several European countries, which collected their perception of safety as a value and its impact in company strategy and in the workplace; (3) a Delphi survey (N=111), which collected consensus statements on the value of safety, on values that support safety, and the mechanisms that form and reinforce values that are perceived to support safety values in practice.

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Participating researchers

Henriikka Ratilainen (FIOH, Finland) — project coordinator

Gerard Zwetsloot (TNO, The Netherlands)

Funding organizations

FIOH (Finland)

FonCSI (France)

TNO (The Netherlands)

FWEF (Finland)

More details

Duration 2014-06 to 2015-12
Contact email
More information

Information last updated on 2014-09-11.

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