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Journal Article


Dwyer T, Raftery AE. Appl. Ergon. 1991; 22(3): 167-178.


Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil.


(Copyright © 1991, Elsevier Publishing)






Industrial accidents are produced by social relations work. This sociological explanation of accidents differs from the hypotheses on which the majority of modern safety practices are based, which reduce accident causes to unsafe acts and unsafe conditions. Accidents are seen as produced at each of three levels of social relations of work (rewards, command and organisation), and also non-socially at the individual-member level. The resulting hypotheses were tested using data collected according to a semi-experimental design in seven plants in which shift (day/night), shift type (rotating/fixed), technological type and management styles were the factors controlled for. Because of the design, machines, materials and, in most cases, workers were the same across shifts and social relations varied. The sociological theory proved capable of explaining most of the variation in inter-shift differences in accident rates, and, when tested statistically, appeared to have greater explanatory power than competing hypotheses. It is concluded that accidents can be prevented by workers who exercise auto-control at all levels and by management which, in the absence of worker orientations favourable to auto-control, engages in safety management as defined sociologically. A practical consequence for ergonomics is that when plant, equipment and processes are to be modified, an attempt to understand their interaction with the social relations of work should be made. A theoretical consequence is that sociological insights should be incorporated into the perspective of the ergonomics discipline.

Language: en


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