Construction of Knowledge Around Risk and Regulatory Practices Among Pipeline Industries in Australia

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 52
Distributed Paper
Dolruedee KRAMNAIMUANG KING , School of Sociology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
This research assesses the gas pipeline industry in Australia in relation to risk, regulatory practices and its comparatively strong safety record. It may be held as an exemplar to examine: how is knowledge of industrial risk in the Australian pipeline industry constructed and performed by regulators? In tackling the question, this research takes discourse analysis combined with a semiotics of materiality Actor-Network Theory approach; giving new emphasis to non-human entities (e.g. gas,  risks, techno-measuring devices and regulatory apparatus) interacting with actors (e.g. regulators, company safety officers, workers and communities) in generating knowledge-power and actions around the regulatory process of governing industrial risks from hazardous industries. The entry point is technically-informed regulators, assumed to have good risk-management knowledge. The research explores three relationships among these entities. First, relationships between regulators and non-human entities: e.g. how regulators develop their knowledge-power and take their actions influenced by a legal concept (as low as reasonably practicable – ALARP); and how regulators interpret their responsibility in the process of hazard identification and assessment? Second, relationships among regulators, companies and non-human entities (e.g. a concept of responsive regulation) are considered: how do regulators exercise their discretion either to support or command the companies? Third, relationships among regulators, companies, workers, the public and non-human entities are assessed: e.g. how do regulators perceive the roles and participatory actions of workers and the public in breaking regulatory capture, balancing power, and managing industrial risks? The findings may reveal inconsistencies hidden in processes, leading to a better understanding of how to manage, govern and mitigate risks and improve regulatory practices and effectiveness.