Line Worker Everyday Sensemaking of Safety Messages in Non-Dynamic Manufacturing Contexts
Winger, Earl A.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Fine Arts and Communication
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In manufacturing, illnesses, injuries, and death occur during ordinary operation as well as when something out of the ordinary happens. Based on the amount of time and energy expended in trying to inform managers how to address this problem, it seemed possible that these events are the product of a gap in communication between managers and line workers regarding safety. This study examined the safety sensegiving communication activities of managers performed and the safety sensemaking activities of line workers in a small manufacturing organization. Managerial descriptions of sensegiving activities and line workers’ sensemaking of activities were compared to identify potential communication gaps. While no apparent communication gap emerged from these data, a safety communication culture emerged. In that culture, managers and line workers desired more safety communication events. Both groups desired more safety communication events, but for a different reason. Managers perceived a safety communication gap where none existed. They also believed that more safety sensegiving or safety communication events would fill that gap. Line workers felt a sense of safety from line managers’ safety sensegiving activities. They desired more of such activities to achieve a greater sense of being safe.