At this stage, it is clear that while HRM-related policies and practices can successfully maximise the human resource contribution, this may incur a significant cost for employees. The deleterious effect of ‘human resource maximising policies’ was all too apparent in the case studies of airline cabin crews and call centre workers, in which various policies and practices were intimately linked to work intensification and work-related illnesses and injuries. Based on these findings, it could be argued that employee health is a relatively low priority when implementing various HR policies and practices, with short-term economic imperatives trampling over any other contenders for higher positions in the business agenda. To some degree, we have observed how this unfair competition is aided and abetted by policymakers who make decisions on legislative provisions, while the role of enforcement-agency (in)action and the degree of employee (and trade union) involvement also contribute to the fate of OHS. However, when the stakes for ‘good’ OHS outcomes are higher, for example, where organisations face crippling liability insurance/compensation costs, or where the fragility of public support for certain industries places an imperative on the avoidance of OHS failures (for example the nuclear power industry), OHS might be expected to occupy a higher position in management and HRM agendas. One vehicle for the upward movement of OHS within these agendas is ‘safety culture’.
‘Safety culture’ has been described as the product of the values, attitudes and behaviours of employers and employees in connection with workplace safety. Since HRM and its related practices and policies attempt to influence (and capture) employee attitudes and values, ‘safety culture’ fits well with the orientation of this text. A broad review of ‘safety culture’ is possible within the context of the nuclear power industry, where it is a dominant theme (see, for example, Wilpert and Itoigawa 2002; Harvey et al. 2002; Harvey et al. 2001; Lee 1998; IAEA 1996). Indeed, within this industry ‘safety culture’ has been heralded as a key predictor of safety performance (Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations 1993).
It is hard to imagine another industry that has the same potentially devastating global impact on health and safety. Thankfully, serious accidents