Making sense of safety

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University of Alabama Libraries

The increased calls for an improved academic safety culture currently being issued by regulatory organizations outlines a very prescriptive approach to addressing safety in colleges and universities. This study focused on how academic researchers made sense of and responded to the safety programs that have been instituted by their organizations. The focus was on scientific researchers who have active research laboratories. The data was collected using semi-structured interviews and analyzed with grounded theory. The results indicated that these researchers grounded their understanding of safety and of institutional safety programs in their professional identity, developed during their own educational and early professional experiences. Further study is warranted to determine if these findings are indicative of these scientific fields across the country. This data suggested that prescriptive compliance requirements regarding safety activities would not be easily accepted by these groups if they were not consistent with this identity. While they were not overtly noncompliant, they did resist institutional safety requirements placed on them that were not in line with the social norms of their professional group. These results could lead to an altered approach towards addressing safety concerns at colleges and universities.

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