The safe operation of complex socio-technical systems is dependent upon the reporting of safety critical incidents by operators within a system. Through the action of reporting, systems develop the capability as a learning organisation to improve human and organisational performance. The aim of the study is therefore to develop a richer understanding of reporter behaviour that is influenced by the safety management system and the social context within an Air Navigation Service Provider in Africa. A case study methodology was applied with complementing inductive coding and thematic content analysis to explore underlying explanations for underreporting behavior. The findings of the study illustrated the prominence of self-preservation beyond system demands as well as the premium that operators place on context when determining which incidents should be reported. An additional five competing consequences added to the complex dilemma of judging reportable incidents. The key implication of the study is that high risk organisations should acknowledge the existence of the social construction of reporting, while associated adjustments to the reporting system may have benefits to the safety performance of an organisation through increased reporting and greater insight into system deficiencies.