Safety Culture Needs A Blueprint.

architect architecture blueprint build

I am going to start by discussing a few findings from two presentations. Both are well rounded and provocative pieces of work.

The first is by Dominic Cooper. Two words caught my  attention – need to develop a taxonomy of the core basic assumptions or replace with them with values.

Anything to do with tax worries me, but in this case, a taxonomy is a way to classify and rank things and how they relate to each other. I think of it as a blueprint. Māori culture already has a taxonomy. One version includes aronga (worldview), kaupapa (values) and tikanga (ethical behaviors). I think, it would be straightforward to derive a taxonomy for Māori safety culture from traditional Māori values.

A safety culture without an taxonomy is like a chess board without colored squares or playing baseball without bases. Its guess work.

Likewise values exist for Māori culture. For instance, and in the context of safety, the value of manaakitanga equates to a duty of care.

The second presentation is by Andrew Hopkins. These words caught my attention – culture is a characterized by a specified group. In 2017, Māori workers represented 12.7 per cent or 340,100, of the total New Zealand labour force. Culture is the glue. In 2013, 373,000 (70 percent) of Māori adults said it was at least somewhat important for them to be involved in things to do with Māori culture.

Collective values are extremely difficult to change, if not impossible. As mentioned Māori collective values can effect good safety culture. For interest, leadership tends to focus on practices because they are easier to see, measure and change.

Why did I write the above? The keywords that I have noted have been discussed in a negative context. Cooper or Hopkins are mooting them as gaps for improvement and have offered solutions.

When I think about Māori culture and Māori safety culture the opposite applies  – a taxonomy ,values, specified group are already in place. The building blocks or better still anchors are there – they always have been.

But I’m disappointed. I was talking with a predominately Māori forestry harvesting crew last week. The cultural anchors and subsequent actions were used instinctively but were not embedded in procedure or practice. When asked why they were missing, the impression I gathered was that they were illegitimate in “normal” health and safety system. Whether perception or not its disappointing to see a good safety culture being curbed.

For some of you, this post won’t resonate. Try this, if you were starting up a new business and had to design a proper Taxonomy (general) for its safety culture, what would it look like?


  • Professor Andrew Hopkins – The use and abuse of culture.
  • Dr Dominic Cooper CFIOSH – Navigating the safety culture construct: a review of the evidence
  • Mātauranga Māori: An Introduction by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal
    Published by MKTA in 2009 ISBN: 978-0-9582955-0-5
  • Statistics NZ: Māori in the Labour Market, 2017 p.2.
  • Statistics NZ: Ethnic Group, 2014

Author: VK Walker

I am wanting describe a model for indigenous safety culture. As a PhD student I am interested in health and safety research including cultures, diversity and the use of traditional indigenous knowledge to inform modern health and safety practices. I am also a New Zealand Government Health and Safety Inspector.

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