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A qualitative systematic review on the application of the normalization of deviance phenomenon within high-risk industries.

Sedlar, Nejc; Irwin, Amy; Martin, Douglas; Roberts, Ruby


Nejc Sedlar

Amy Irwin

Douglas Martin


The concept of normalization of deviance describes the gradual acceptance of deviant observations and practices. It is founded upon the gradual desensitization to risk experienced by individuals or groups who recurrently deviate from standard operating procedures without encountering negative consequences. Since its inception, normalization of deviance has seen extensive, but segmented, application across numerous high-risk industrial contexts. The current paper describes a systematic review of the existing literature on the topic of normalization of deviance within high-risk industrial settings. Four major databases were searched in order to identify relevant academic literature, with 33 academic papers meeting all inclusion criteria. Directed content analysis was used to analyze the texts. Based on the review, an initial conceptual framework was developed to encapsulate identified themes and their interactions; key themes linked to the normalization of deviance included risk normalization, production pressure, culture, and a lack of negative consequences. While preliminary, the present framework offers relevant insights into the phenomenon that may help guide future analysis using primary data sources and aid in the development of intervention methods. Normalization of deviance is an insidious phenomenon that has been noted in several high-profile disasters across a variety of industrial settings. A number of organizational factors allow for and/or propagate this process, and as such, the phenomenon should be considered as an aspect of safety evaluations and interventions.


SEDLAR, N., IRWIN, A., MARTIN, D. and ROBERTS, R. 2023. A qualitative systematic review on the application of the normalization of deviance phenomenon within high-risk industries. Journal of safety research [online], 84, pages 290-305. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 8, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 18, 2022
Publication Date Feb 28, 2023
Deposit Date Nov 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 28, 2022
Journal Journal of safety research
Print ISSN 0022-4375
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 84
Pages 290-305
Keywords Normalization of deviance; Risk normalization; Systematic review; High-risk industry; Safety
Public URL
Additional Information The preprint for this article was posted on PsyArXiv:


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