What is it like for a middle manager to take safety into account? Practices and challenges

Tiziana C. Callari, Corinne Bieder, Barry Kirwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Aviation today is seen as a very safe industry, yet recent accidents have shown that vulnerabilities still exist. The literature has often drawn attention to the role played by top managers/CEO in running their businesses profitably, and at the same time keeping them safe from threats. Research has also investigated the way people at the sharp-end of organisations are ‘mindful’ of the possible threats that can occur in their day-to-day activities, and how they can anticipate (most of) them. But what about the role played by middle managers in ensuring safety in every organisational operation? Even if researchers now agree that middle managers’ actions are a valuable asset for organisations and central to pursuing key organisational outcomes, very little is known about how middle managers take safety into account in their daily operations, and the challenges they face. This paper reports on the safety-related practices and challenges of middle managers of the civil aviation industry. Within the Future Sky Safety project, over a two-year research activity, 48 middle managers from a range of aviation organisations agreed to talk about the strategies and actions they put in place on a routine basis, to embed safety in the daily operations. Methodologically, semi-structured interviews were conducted and the qualitative content analysis (QCA) method was used to make sense of the raw material, through a data-driven coding frame. The findings of this research suggest that the practices middle managers identify as central in relation to their role in the management of safety can be grouped into three high-level categories: (1) making decisions, (2) influencing key stakeholders to get the job done, and (3) managing information. This research adds knowledge in relation to the middle managers’ role in the management of safety, in particular shedding light on the competency that middle managers from the civil aviation industry rely on to get the job done when it comes to contributing to safety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalSafety Science
Issue number113
Early online date17 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Open Access under a Creative Commons licence.
Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • Aviation
  • Management practice
  • Middle managers
  • NVivo
  • Qualitative content analysis
  • Safety
  • Safety management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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