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Organizational Discourse and the Appraisal of Occupational Hazards: Interpretive Repertoires, Heedful Interrelating, and Identity at Work

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Scholars and practitioners have often conceptualized hazards as external to discursive processes, focusing instead on the role of strategic communication in representing pre-organized vulnerabilities to stakeholders rather than on the capacity of mundane discourse practices to shape how hazards emerge. In this study of risk discourse in one high reliability organization, a municipal fire department, we demonstrate how hazard appraisals emerged as intersubjective products of organizational discourse. Specifically, we explore how the interpretive repertoires firefighters used to make sense of hazards were medium and outcome of discursive identity formations. Firefighters employed preferred identity terms to amplify identity-enhancing dangers and attenuate vulnerabilities that were threatening to a preferred sense of self.

Keywords: Heedful Interrelating; High Reliability Organizations; Occupational Safety; Ontological Security; Organizational Discourse

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2008


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