Trust in Safety-Critical Contexts

Authored by: Brian C. Gunia , Sharon H. Kim , Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

The Routledge Companion to Trust

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138817593
eBook ISBN: 9781315745572
Adobe ISBN:


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Although all organizations are concerned with reducing risks and preventing hazards, organizations in certain industries (e.g. commercial aviation, nuclear power, chemical processing, and healthcare) must be particularly attuned to safety. This chapter reviews research on trust dynamics in safety-critical contexts, starting from research indicating that trust positively influences safety behaviours and outcomes. However, recent crises and research developments draw attention to the fact that trust is a double-edged sword: excessive trust can undermine safety. This chapter attempts to shed light on this dilemma by offering four perspectives that summarize the literature’s various views on the subject of trust. Despite progress in understanding the nuanced role trust plays in safety-critical contexts, our review suggests that there is both a need and an opportunity to study these variables more deeply and creatively. We conclude by identifying some gaps in the literature, proposing avenues for future research, and offering implications for practice.

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