Safety framing and compliance in relation to standards: Experience from the Australian gas pipeline industry

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Safety is conceptualized in different ways across hazardous industries, but it is often expressed in terms of compliance. Compliance is about rules in various forms, including standards. Standards are core reference points that guide the design, construction and management of hazardous infrastructure such as high pressure gas pipelines. While standards are critical, we argue that neither their application nor their relationship to safety should be taken for granted. In this article, we investigate the ways in which safety as compliance in relation to standards manifests, the ways it is contested, its strategic use and implications for major accident risk management. Building on the framing literature, this article reveals where these frames reside and their interactions. We use qualitative methods to examine the framings of safety present in accounts of Australian pipeline industry members. We argue that the frames (compliance as expert judgment and compliance as process) are contested, which leads to the creation of a hybrid or compromise frame – one which integrates the underlying concerns of both frames. Best case, a dialogue between people using both frames results in a hybrid frame involving expert use of standards, with consideration of industry context. Worst case, standards are thoughtlessly applied, or are used as a way to displace organizational responsibility for safety that may be in conflict with business pressures.




Maslen, S., & Ransan-Cooper, H. (2017). Safety framing and compliance in relation to standards: Experience from the Australian gas pipeline industry. Safety Science, 94, 52–60.

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