A case of collective lying: How deceit becomes entrenched in organizational safety behavior

Jan Hayes, Sarah Maslen, Paul Schulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper addresses lying among workers throughout an organizational hierarchy in the US company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who falsified their locate and mark records for nearly a decade. The investigation into the way in which locate and mark activities were managed and monitored gives unique insights into how lying about safety performance starts in corporations, how particular lies become part of a norm in work groups, and how they are justified when they are called out. Our analysis addresses the role of operational systems, bonus arrangements, day-to-day management instructions, and the regulatory environment. We argue that once lying about achieving specific goals becomes entrenched in an organization it is very difficult to uncover and to stop. Key to guarding against such conditions, and hopefully changing them, is focus on the safety requirements in terms of accident prevention, open lines of reporting throughout organizations, a ‘just’ culture, and reliable regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106554
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSafety Science
Volume176
Early online dateMay 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2024

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