Combining Sociology of Law and Sociology of Quantification: A Key Way for Risk Assessment and Empowerment?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Eric DRAIS, INRS, France
Risks studies often combines sociology of science and political sociology (Burgess, Alemanno, Zinn, 2016). Focusing as much on the mechanisms that produce knowledge as on those that produce ignorance, it shows how both contribute to risks agenda-setting process. In the field of health risks, we know that both selecting scientific work and also calling such work into question can contribute to limiting knowledge and to keeping populations exposed. Occupational health is also concerned. In France some recent works analyses the biases relating to construction of the public problems and to the scientific knowledge that structures occupational risk prevention (Henry, 2017). In the fields of controversial risks how do occupational health specialists mobilise such highly debated knowledge in support of their intervention? This question is a concern in our research work at the French Research and Safety Institute for the Prevention of Occupational Accidents and Diseases (INRS). In this presentation, we propose to describe how, at the scale of the company or business, using sociology of law and sociology of quantification, make it possible to refresh knowledge and to transform collective assessment so as to lead to mobilisation and risk prevention. Our proposal is based on work analysing and comparing social uses of law (Drais, 2017; Lapoire-Chasset, 2017) and social uses of measurement (Lapoire-Chasset et alii, 2017), in contexts of controversies between multi-stakeholders related to distinct occupational exposures towards psychosocial risks and nanomaterials (40 cases). We will show how the construction of risks takes place with regard to the procedures for quantifying them and for attributing responsibilities. By combining these approaches, the sociologist develops knowledge that promotes a redistribution of capacities as regards risk prevention. Reducing the uncertainties as regards evaluation and legal norms contributes to reducing health inequalities and to a certain social justice with regard to occupational risks.