The evolution of safety legislation in Hong Kong: Actors, structures and institutions

Chuanjing Ju*, Steve Rowlinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Safety regulations are one part of an organisation's institutional environment. An effective and robust institutional framework is likely to involve an admixture of regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements of institutions. This study aimed to understand how safety regulations become interconnected (or not) with other forms of institutions in the course of history. Taking Hong Kong as a case, this study illustrated the coevolution of safety legislation and a safety-defined organisational field, drawing on archival documents, books, research articles and interviews. It was identified that the organisational field was evolved from the government as the single actor to a network governance structure, over four stages in a century: early days, the embryonic stage, golden time and the transition stage. Until the transition stage, regulative institutions were the major form of regulating mechanisms. This study identified that the late emergence of normative and cultural-cognitive institutions, e.g., commonly accepted safety standards, procedures, norms and values, might be attributed to the inherent deficiencies of the formal regulatory system, and most importantly, the lack of institutional infrastructure during the first three evolution stages. This research also demonstrated that the emergence of normative and cultural-cognitive institutions at the transition stage relied on a combination of three conditions: material resources, rationales for a cognitive change, and inter-organisational structures bringing about collective actions. Policy makers are suggested to pay attention to the conditions supporting and inhibiting the construction of normative and cultural-cognitive institutions among field actors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104606
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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