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Health on the Line: Identity and Disciplinary Control in Employee Occupational Health and Safety Discourse

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Based on an ethnographic case study and interviewing at an automobile manufacturing plant, this essay examines employee consent to health hazards and to the discursive and regulatory mechanisms that exclude employee experiences from official reports of workplace injury and illness. The article redresses the lack of scholarly attention in the occupational health and safety literature to the role of discourse in defining and negotiating risk and in constructing norms about reporting health and safety issues among employees. Findings demonstrate how employees themselves may participate in the construction of shared identity norms that act disciplinarily to shift responsibility for safety from management to individual workers. Understanding these hegemonic norms provides a basis to question occupational health and safety statistics, and offers strategic points of intervention to improve worker health protections.
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Keywords: Occupational health and safety; consent; identity; organizational culture

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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