Working Disasters: The Politics of Recognition and Response

Overview

Every day, workers are injured, made ill, or killed on the job. Most often, workers experience these harms individually and in isolation. Particular occurrences rarely attract much public attention beyond, perhaps, a small paragraph in the local newspaper. Instead, these events are normalized. This membrane of normalcy, however, is ruptured from time to time, especially after a disaster. This edited collection draws together original case studies written by leading researchers in Australia, Canada, Great Britain,...
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Overview

Every day, workers are injured, made ill, or killed on the job. Most often, workers experience these harms individually and in isolation. Particular occurrences rarely attract much public attention beyond, perhaps, a small paragraph in the local newspaper. Instead, these events are normalized. This membrane of normalcy, however, is ruptured from time to time, especially after a disaster. This edited collection draws together original case studies written by leading researchers in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, and the United States that examine the politics of working disasters. The essays address two fundamental questions: what gets recognized as a work disaster? And how does the state respond to one? In some instances, it seems self-evident that a disaster has occurred. For example, when a mine explodes killing tens or hundreds of workers simultaneously, the media and politicians recognize that this is not just a personal tragedy for the families of the victims, and that more troubling questions need to be asked about how this could happen. In other circumstances, however, the process that determines what gets recognized as a disaster is much more complicated. Working Disasters addresses the politics of recognition in case studies of the long-haul trucking industry, repetitive strain injuries, and lung disease in miners. Once it has recognized that a working disaster has occurred, the state typically goes beyond its routine responses to the daily toll of work-related deaths and injuries. Inquiries may be initiated to review the adequacy of regulatory systems and laws may be amended. Sometimes disasters produce meaningful change, but often they do not. In this text, the politics of response is considered in studies of a factory fire, the loss of an offshore oil rig, lung disease among miners, a mine explosion, and the prosecution of health and safety offenses.
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What People Are Saying

Charles Noble
"This pathbreaking collection is essential reading for anyone interested in how governments identify, understand, and react to dangers and disasters at work. Political scientists, sociologists, and historians interested in work, labor, and the political process would also be well served by close attention to these case studies."
California State University, Long Beach
John Braithwaite
"Working Disasters brings together an outstanding group of scholars to analyze a diverse range of occupational health and safety catastrophes. The result is a formidable contribution to the disasters literature."
Australia National University, Canberra
Theo Nichols
"The book brings together work from several fields--sociology, law, history, criminology, and industrial relations-and presents cases that relate to a variety of occupational groups: Australian truck drivers and white-collar workers, Canadian miners, and oil rig workers in the British North Sea, among others. In exploring the politics of disaster recognition and response, Eric Tucker has performed a valuable service for all those interested in work and working conditions and in occupational health and safety."
School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, U.K.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895033192
  • Publisher: Baywood Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Series: Work, Health and Environment Ser.
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction : the politics of recognition and response 1
Ch. 2 Trucking tragedies : the hidden disaster of mass death in the long-haul road transport industry 19
Ch. 3 The Australian epidemic of repetition strain injury : a sociological perspective 65
Ch. 4 "All part of the game" : the recognition of and response to an industrial disaster at the Fluorspar Mines, St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, 1933-1978 77
Ch. 5 The long road to action : the silicosis problem and Swedish occupational health and safety policy in the 20th century 103
Ch. 6 Disaster, meaning making, and reform in antebellum Massachusetts 139
Ch. 7 Regulating safety, regulating profit : cost-cutting, injury and death in the British North Sea after Piper Alpha 181
Ch. 8 Courts, crime, and workplace disaster 207
Ch. 9 Blame and causation in the aftermath of industrial disasters : Nova Scotia's coal mines from 1858 to Westray 237
Ch. 10 Accountability and reform in the aftermath of the Westray mine explosion 277
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