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Understanding “communication gaps” among personnel in high-risk workplaces from a dialogical perspective
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences. (MKV)
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences. (MKV)
2012 (English)In: Safety Science, ISSN 0925-7535, E-ISSN 1879-1042, Vol. 50, no 1, p. 39-47Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Our primary aim in this paper is to argue for a discourse analytical take on questions of how risk and safety are managed by personnel in high-risk workplaces, with a special focus on constructions of “us” and “them”. Thus, we approach the same issue investigated in many other studies, i.e., diverging safety-related understandings between people representing various occupational groups. We choose to examine so-called communication gaps as they are “talked into being” in discourse, meaning that we treat them as primarily socially constructed. A case analysis based on interviews will be used to illustrate how we can understand this phenomenon from a communicative perspective inspired by Linell’s (1998a) dialogue theory. While previous discourse and safety culture research emphasizes broad patterns and differences between entire professions and departments, we argue that researchers should hesitate to reinforce the notion of homogeneous groups. Instead, there is great value in demonstrating collective social construction processes and commonalities so as to facilitate inter-group solidarity and possibly productive change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Amsterdam: Elsevier , 2012. Vol. 50, no 1, p. 39-47
Keyword [en]
risk, safety, discourse, methodology, communication gaps
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-12697DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2011.06.009ISI: 000296176200005Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-80053177106OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-12697DiVA: diva2:376631
Note

Funding Agencies:

Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency 2009-57124

Competence Centre for Energetic Materials (KCEM) 

Available from: 2010-12-12 Created: 2010-12-12 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically 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. p. 94
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, JoelKroon Lundell, Åsa

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