Sociological factors influencing the practice of incident reporting: the case of the shipping industry

Syamantak Bhattacharya (Plymouth Business School, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 1 January 2012



The purpose of this paper is to present the ways in which underlying social and organisational factors and employment relations underpin the practice of incident reporting in the international shipping industry.


The paper uses a qualitative case study method involving field trips to two shipping organisations and sailing on research voyages on two ships of each of the organisations. It draws on empirical data using semi‐structured interviews, notes from fieldwork observations and documentary analysis of company policies, procedures and practices.


In the two companies studied there were significant gaps between the policy and practice of incident reporting, which were present primarily due to the employees' fear of losing jobs. It is shown that these findings were manifestations of deeper sociological issues and organisational weaknesses in the shipping industry. In particular ineffective regulatory infrastructure, weak employment practices, the absence of trade union support and lack of organisational trust were the key underlying concerns which made incident reporting notably ineffective in the shipping context.


While the weaknesses in the practice of incident reporting in the shipping industry were reported in the past, previous studies did not offer further explanations. This paper addresses the gap and provides another illustration of the need for looking into deeper sociological underpinnings for practices in the workplace. The author also hopes that the study will have a positive impact on policy makers in the shipping industry.



Bhattacharya, S. (2012), "Sociological factors influencing the practice of incident reporting: the case of the shipping industry", Employee Relations, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 4-21.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.