Effect of isomorphic forces on safety practices in service organizations: are there dangers to homogeneity?
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A wide range of different safety practices exist. However, they have been developed for production-oriented high-hazard environments. We know relatively little about safety practices in low-hazard service sector environments where most people in the U.K work and which differ from production-oriented industries in their organization, working practices and hazards. We conducted 143 semi-structured interviews in 10 stores of four leading U.K retailers and an ofﬁce and two warehouses of a global logistics company. These revealed 32 categories of safety practices in these service organizations which we aligned to those indicated in the OHSAS 18001 framework to allow comparison across industries. There were few practices that were not common to all service environments. Moreover, these closely resembled safety practices conducted in production-oriented high-hazard environments. We explain this homogeneity by institutional isomorphism, which encourages conformity through coercive, normative and mimetic pressures arising respectively from legal and regulatory requirements, professional standards and training, and lack of resources and staff turnover. We draw attention to the contingent relationship between hazards and appropriate safety practices and conclude that these pressures encourage organizations to borrow practices inappropriately and to accumulate layers of practices to ensure safe working needlessly increasing organizational costs. Opportunities for further research are discussed.