Vulnerable Workers: The Significance of Trust and Uncertainty in Coping with Workplace Hazards

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Alan HALL , Memorial University, St. John's, NF, Canada

Based on a qualitative study of 120 Canadian born and immigrant workers in unionized and non-unionized workplaces, this paper explores the different ways in which workers manage and cope with workplace safety hazards in contexts of varying forms of employment vulnerability and insecurity (Vosko, 2006). I examine the rationalizations, beliefs and identities that workers employ to dismiss or make sense of their risk-taking, while also considering the ways in which they seek to construct levels of control over hazards and security in their employment, in part through the building of knowledge and trust with other workers and supervisors.   I also consider the contradictory nature of workers’ actions which are frequently in tension with each other, including taking safety risks to build employment security, as well as taking employment risks to establish limits to their acceptance of safety risks.   In this latter part of the analysis, I explore the conditions and actions which limit worker compliance to certain levels and kinds of hazardous conditions, arguing that some workers are relatively successful in working either individually or with other workers to build what they see as a balanced level of safety and security.