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Prevention culture as culture: can we achieve it, and is it enough?

Schulte-PA; Guerin-RJ; Okun-AH
From Risks to Vision Zero: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Culture of Prevention - Future Approaches, September 25 - 27, 2013, Helsinki, Finland. Aaltonen M, Äyräväinen A, Vainio H, Lehtinen A, eds. Helsinki, Finland: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, 2014 Jan; :21-29
As the 2008 Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work states, "...[a] 'Prevention Culture' is one in which society as a whole promotes high levels of safety and health at work.... A national preventive safety and health culture acknowledges and supports the right to a safe and healthy work environment that is: respected at all levels; actively participated in by governments, employers, and workers; [and] defined in systems of responsibilities and duties. It is a culture where the principles of prevention are accorded the highest priority" (1). So what does "prevention culture as culture" mean? Culture is defined in many ways and generally refers to "that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, acts, laws, morals, customs, and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society" (2). Anthropologist Clifford Geertz's definition of culture - one that is widely cited in organization studies (3) - argues for a complex and dynamic conception of culture that is "...essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law, but an interpretative one in search of meaning" (4). As Geertz's description implies, because of its meaning-centered and dynamic nature, culture is mutable, and humans can act collectively to change it to reflect shared norms and beliefs. As Geertz envisioned, the social web we weave can be expansive and simultaneously limiting, depending on the collective choices we make. The public health community can foster the expansion of a conception of culture that includes a focus on protecting and promoting the health of the whole person in all of his or her environments - from home, to work, to the community.
Humans; Sociological-factors; Health-protection; Preventive-medicine; Accident-prevention; Injury-prevention; Disease-prevention; Education; Public-health; Worker-health; Mental-health; Job-analysis; Risk-analysis
Paul A. Schulte, PhD, Director, Education and Information Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS-C14, Cincinnati, OH 45226 USA
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Aaltonen-M; Äyräväinen-A; Vainio-H; Lehtinen-A
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From Risks to Vision Zero: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Culture of Prevention - Future Approaches
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division