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Enabling selves to conduct themselves safely: safety committee discourse as governmentality in practice
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences. (Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap; Ideologiska horisonter; Hotbilder och identitet)
2011 (English)In: Human Relations, ISSN 0018-7267, E-ISSN 1741-282X, Vol. 64, no 3, 459-478 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A developing body of literature argues that workplace safety is increasingly becoming the responsibility of employees who are the potential victims of hazards. Although interaction is an integral part of enacting and justifying these responsibilization processes, previous research has not provided detailed analysis of organizational talk in this regard. Following Brownlie’s (2004) ‘analytic bridging’ of Foucault and close discourse analysis, this study centres on a safety committee meeting, and demonstrates how governmentality is exercised as senior managers seek the consent of other employees for behavioural-safety implementation. Three discursive strategies are analysed in detail, examining the construction and invocation of: 1) an equal partnership through collaborative and vague talk; 2) hierarchy through directives and declaratives; 3) competitiveness by the establishment of a factory-versus-factory contest. In sum, these discursive strategies forcefully combine constructions of reciprocal relations together with disciplinary discourse that mandates compliance with program implementation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 64, no 3, 459-478 p.
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-11509DOI: 10.1177/0018726710380976ISI: 000287841200007Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-79952270458OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-11509DiVA: diva2:330623
Available from: 2010-07-18 Created: 2010-07-18 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Safety in the making: studies on the discursive construction of risk and safety in the chemical industry
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Safety in the making: studies on the discursive construction of risk and safety in the chemical industry
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This compilation thesis aims to analyse how risk and safety are constructed, reproduced, and negotiated by communicative means in safety-critical workplaces. It conceptualizes these communicative moments of shaping and reshaping risk and safety as enmeshed in multiple forms of governing. That is, the management of risk and safety may not only be an employer’s responsibility delegated by the State, in a welfarist fashion, but may take different forms through a variety of institutional practices and communicative means. These defining practices seem particularly urgent to study, since it is through them that the locus of risk may be moved from one type of area or object to another, that attention is or is not paid to certain conditions of human exposure, and that parties are appointed responsible for safety measures.The thesis centres on three safety-critical factories located in Sweden that handle corrosive and/or explosive chemicals. It analyses interviews with various employees as well as recorded talk at a safety committee meeting. Previous research has addressed the existence of a tension between a strategy of individual responsibility and one of collective protection. This study makes a further contribution by demonstrating how these traditions are advocated and negotiated in discourse, and the dilemmas that emerge in the process. Although the study demonstrates that a discourse of collective prevention is reflected and reproduced in some narratives, it also makes evident that a great deal of responsibility is placed on the individual worker to avoid risk. The analysis has been able to show that this is due to the co-presence of traditional, hierarchical advice-giving and self-reproach, which amplify the importance of workers conducting themselves with greater caution, and of those newer concepts and technologies for worker involvement and responsibilization which are implemented in line with neoliberal ideas of human resources utilization.  Furthermore, the thesis demonstrates how employees’ risk and safety discourse exposes dilemmas, especially when, consciously or not, egalitarian norms are taken into account. For instance, the moralizing elements of behavioural discourse are regularly supplemented by mitigating, pronominal, or entirely agentless discursive choices, and thus by an anticipatory display of awareness of egalitarian norms. It is argued that this discoursal softening of workers’ risk responsibilities helps condition the sustained prevalence of a behavioural approach to risk and safety. It also exposes some of its fragility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet, 2010. 94 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Media and Communication, ISSN 1651-4785 ; 10
Keyword
safety, risk, occupational health and safety, organizations, chemical industry, discourse, discursive practices, discursive strategies, power, governmentality, responsibilization
National Category
Social Sciences Media and Communications
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-11869 (URN)978-91-7668-752-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-11-05, Hörsal P1, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 12:06 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-09-20 Created: 2010-09-20 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved

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Rasmussen, Joel

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