Title: Dealing collectively with critical incident stress reactions in high risk work environments: a case study on a European air navigation services provider

Authors: Alice Mueller-Leonhardt; Pernille Stroebaek; Joachim Vogt

Addresses: Faculty of Human Sciences, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Alexanderstr. 10, 64283 Darmstadt, Germany ' Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 1353 Copenhagen C., Denmark ' Faculty of Human Sciences, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Alexanderstr. 10, 64283 Darmstadt, Germany

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to shift the representation of coping patterns within high risk occupations to an existential part of cultural pattern and social structure, which characterises high reliability organisations. Drawing upon the specific peer model of critical incident stress management (CISM), in which qualified operational peers support colleagues who experienced critical incident stress, the paper discusses critical incident stress management in air traffic control. Our study revealed coping patterns that co-vary with the culture that the CISM programme fostered within this specific high reliability organisation. Seen as a social construct, CISM culture was found effective in the interaction of operational staff, supervisors and the CISM programme manager. We were able to demonstrate that social mechanisms of trust, interaction and communication are important factors in high reliability organisations. Indeed, we found that the CISM programme once integrated within the socio-cultural patterns of this specific working environment enhanced not only individual feelings of being supported but also organisational safety culture.

Keywords: coping patterns; safety culture; critical incident stress management; CISM; high risk occupations; high reliability organisations; socio-cultural patterns; case study; Europe; air navigation services providers; air traffic control; trust; interaction; communication; organisational culture; employee support.

DOI: 10.1504/IJRAM.2015.069004

International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 2015 Vol.18 No.2, pp.156 - 172

Received: 16 Oct 2013
Accepted: 21 Apr 2014

Published online: 24 Apr 2015 *

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