Safety Leadership in Two Types of Safety-Critical Systems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


In safety-critical systems, such as aviation systems, nuclear power plants and hospitals, system failures can cause loss of life, environmental and property damage. Safety-critical systems consists of loose or tight interactions, they are more or less complex, and these characteristics affect the system’s ability to prevent and overcome emerging system failures. The demand for good safety cultures, and safe and efficient work within these types of systems highlight the crucial role of safety leadership. This paper reports on findings from a small pilot study with the aim of exploring whether safety leadership in practice differs according to the built in properties of complexity and coupling in safety-critical organizations. Based on a literature review on safety leadership, interviews were conducted with one leader at a nuclear power plant, and one at a university hospital. The two systems can be viewed to have separate characters and differences in the way work is performed. Contrasts existed between safety leadership within the nuclear power plant and the hospital setting concerning flexibility in the organizations. The hospital setting were more suitable for adaptability and flexibility in relation to dynamical decision hierarchies. The nuclear power plant setting was viewed as more rigid with tightly coupled interactions, and the leadership and safety culture might be extra crucial within this system. Nevertheless, both interviewees promoted a transformational and inspirational leadership style. However, transactional leadership was preferable in critical situations.


External organisations
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering


  • Resilience, Safety, Safety leadership, Socio-technical system
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2021 - Systems and Macroergonomics
EditorsNancy L. Black, W. Patrick Neumann, Ian Noy
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-74602-5
ISBN (Print)9783030746018
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch
Event21st Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 2021 Jun 132021 Jun 18

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Networks and Systems
Volume219 LNNS
ISSN (Print)2367-3370
ISSN (Electronic)2367-3389


Conference21st Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2021
CityVirtual, Online