Working Disasters: The Politics of Recognition and Response, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Working Disasters

The Politics of Recognition and Response, 1st Edition

By Eric Tucker


336 pages

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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 oilrig, lung disease among miners, a mine explosion, and the prosecution of health and safety offences. This book will be of use to occupational health and safety activists and professionals; academics and upper-year students in: industrial relations, labour studies, labour history, law, political science, and sociology.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1. Introduction: The Politics of Recognition and Response

Eric Tucker

CHAPTER 2. Trucking Tragedies: The Hidden Disaster of Mass Death in the Long-Haul Road Transport Industry

Michael Quinlan, Claire Mayhew, and Richard Johnstone

CHAPTER 3. The Australian Epidemic of Repetition Strain Injury: A Sociological Perspective

Andrew Hopkins

CHAPTER 4. "All Part of the Game": The Recognition of and Response to an Industrial Disaster at the Fluorspar Mines, St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, 1933-1978

Richard Rennie

CHAPTER 5. The Long Road to Action: The Silicosis Problem and Swedish Occupational Health and Safety Policy in the 20th Century

Annette Thörnquist

CHAPTER 6. Disaster, Meaning Making, and Reform in Antebellum Massachusetts

Patricia Reeve

CHAPTER 7. Regulating Safety, Regulating Profit: Cost-Cutting, Injury and Death in the British North Sea after Piper Alpha

Dave Whyte

CHAPTER 8. Courts, Crime, and Workplace

Richard Johnstone

CHAPTER 9. Blame and Causation in the Aftermath of Industrial Disasters: Nova Scotia's Coal Mines from 1858 to Westray

Susan Dodd

CHAPTER 10. Accountability and Reform in the Aftermath of the Westray Mine Explosion

Eric Tucker


About the Series

Work, Health and Environment Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health