Importance of equity and dignity

Annotated Bibliography

Question 3:

Critically assess the role and importance of equity and dignity at work with regard to either gender and work/life balance or occupational health and safety.

  1. Mayhew C., Quinlan M., 2002, 'Fordism in the fast food industry: pervasive management control and occupational health and safety risks for young temporary workers', Sociology of Health & Illness, vol 24, no. 3, pp 261 - 284.

2This study examines the effect work arrangements have on OHS faced specifically by young temporary workers. 3304 young temporary workers from Australian fast food outlets were surveyed to determine their knowledge of OHS legal rights and practices, and exposure to work-related injuries and work violence. 4The respondents displayed a healthy knowledge of OHS legislation and risk control measures, but highlighted higher exposure to low-level occupational violence and possessed minimal knowledge of workers' compensation. Both these findings have implications on workplace equity and dignity, and will be discussed in my paper. The study found no difference in the level of injury incidence between temporary and permanent workers. In contrast to research conducted by Ritzer (2000) and Royle (2000), which depicted Fordist production systems as having a negative impact on OHS, this study found that Fordist production systems had a positive impact on OHS, leading to lower injury outcomes, and highlighted that Fordist production systems integrated OHS into operational tasks and on-the-job training, which may be important in the case of the temporary worker, with less experience and higher turnover. One limitation of the study is the sample diversity, conducted in only one firm in one country.5Fordist production systems - treating OHS as a part of the business systems rather than an afterthought - may have some equity and dignity built-in to their systems, and is an discussion area that I will pursue in my paper as a proactive, integrated approach to OHS. Yet because the Fordist approach leaves little room for employee involvement, augmentation of the Fordist model to be more feedback incorporating is important, as collaboration is a common and crucial theme in all four articles.

  1. Macintosh M., Gough R., 1998, 'The Impact of Workplace Change on Occupational Health and Safety: A Study of Four Manufacturing Plants', Human Factors in Ergonomics and Manufacturing, vol 8, no. 2, pp 155 - 175.

2This study examined how occupational health and safety (OHS) is affected by workplace changes in four Australian manufacturing companies. 3The study interviewed workers, union officials, managers and OHS Committee members from the four companies examined between 1988 and 1995. 4The study found that OHS is affected by three management of work organisation practices - Changes in the management of people, specifically employee involvement; the role and influence of OHS experts in the company and the degree of union involvement in organisational decision making. Results show that a collaborative approach to OHS practice - including initiatives such as team-based problem solving and union acceptance - was present only when clearly spelt out by legislative requirements, and relied heavily on OHS experts to execute. While the idea of having OHS experts in the company was to make the work environment safer, Blewitt and Shaw (1996) and Frick (1995) argue that the extent of their influence depends on the amount of autonomy they have. Results from the four company analysis shows that the autonomy and influence OHS experts have on OHS practice differed greatly. Union representation was not strong enough to effect much change to OHS practice. Workplace change did not incorporate OHS or employee involvement fully. Cost reductions are a common theme in the setting of OHS practice, seen as part of a greater effort to develop organisational culture and commitment. Specifically, OHS improvements were motivated by desired cost reductions in occupational injury. 5Looking at views from both sides, this paper highlights the importance of a 'shared equity' between management and employees, and whether employees have a fair representation (an equal voice) in current and future OHS practices. This forms the basis of my paper, which will look at equity and dignity from both sides. The role of the union while important needs to be looked at from the perspective of how much bargaining power they have and whether management has the dignity to want to discuss OHS issues with them openly and with the objective of creating a truly safe and healthy workplace, one that is both fair and dignified.

  1. Boyd, C., 2002, 'Customer Violence and Employee Health and Safety', Work, Employment and Society, SAGE Publications, vol 16, no. 1, pp 151-169.

2This paper studies the increasing number of cases of customer violence in the airline and railway industries and its effects on employee health and safety. The paper provides an interesting insight into the effect of emotional labor on employee health, drawing on previous research by Ritzer (1993), suggesting that the service industry imposes on employees the need to display emotions in tandem with norms and rules relating to managing customer perceptions and expectations. 31173 questionnaires sampled from cabin crews from airlines and railway companies, provide results that shed some light on the relationship between the demands of emotional labor and OHS outcomes. 4The results resoundingly indicate an increase in the number of abusive passengers, un-helped by companies policies to serve alcohol on flights and trains, poor ventilation, cabin baggage disputes, constant delays and marketing gaps, and a large subset of these responses also highlighted these abusive passengers to be an OHS concern. The results simultaneously reflect a lack of training to handle such violence. The study also highlights the prevalence of the low-cost, high-profit approach to OHS, by reducing the investment on training employees, a lack of safety equipment, and policies to protect employee's well-being. High reported incidents of physical abuse resulted in lower perceived job satisfaction and feelings of intimidation and emotional stress. The study thus finds a strong correlation between the demands made on emotional labor and employee health and well-being. The paper concludes that management exploits emotional labor as much as physical labor as much as they can get away with without regard for its effect on employee health and safety, and states importance of integrating the emotional labor component into the overall assessment of employee well-being and health. 5Consistent with all the other articles, the theme of cost-cutting crops up in the continuing OHS discussion, which will be addressed in my paper, as equity and dignity are looked at from a cost perspective. The question of equity raises the importance of striking a balance between the immediate benefits of cost-cutting in OHS, and the longer term costs of higher turnover, employee job dissatisfaction, and compensation.

  1. Holland, P., Pyman, A., and Teicher, J., 2005, 'Negotiating the Contested Terrain of Drug Testing in the Australian Workplace', The Journal of Industrial Relations, vol 47, no. 3, pp 326-338.

2This study examines the pros and cons of work place drug testing, using an Australian case study. 3The exploration of the complex issues of drug testing was examined through a case study of three BHP mine sites. 4Findings from the BHP case study confirms to the controversial nature of drug and alcohol testing in the Australian workplace. Issues raised were duty of care, OHS obligations and employees' rights of privacy. Also highlighted was the difficulty of reaching a testing outcome that was agreeable to all parties, an important consideration given the costly investment in resources to make such testing possible. Previous research by Nolan (2000), Nolan and Nomchong (2000) and Webb and Festa (1994) strongly suggest that drug and alcohol testing would be best implemented as part of a comprehensive OHS initiative, rather than a standalone strategy, stressing the importance of consultation and due process. This would require the cooperation of unions and employers to collaborate to a suitable program for workplace implementation. It also highlights the importance of education of all parties concerned, and rehabilitation programs. 5This paper provides an important insight on the sensitive nature of dignity, specifically what employers can do to maintain employee dignity while trying to make the workplace safer and healthier, and employees and the union developing (through open communication and education) and understanding that drug and alcohol testing can be for the greater good of the company's dignity, and be used to protect employees from harm and abuse at work, thereby saving their dignity in the future.


  1. Blewitt, V. and Shaw, A. (1995a) Integrating OHS through self-managing work teams, Journal of Occupational Health and Safety - Australia New Zealand, 11(1), 15-19.
  2. Frick, K. (1995) The Swedish Life Fund's integration of work environment and industrial policies, Paper delivered at Conference Understanding the Work Environment: From Medical Technical Problem-Solving to a Process of Participative Management (Swedish Institute for Work Life Research, Stockholm)
  3. Nolan, J. (2000) Unions Stuffed or Stoned Workers. Online 71: 1-5
  4. Nolan, J., Nomchong, K. (2000) Fitness for Duty - Recent Legal Development. ACIRRRT Working Paper No. 69
  5. Ritzer, G. (1993). The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oak, CA: Pine Forge Press
  6. Ritzer, G. (2000) The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, California, Pine Forge Press.
  7. Royle, T. (2000) Working for McDonalds in Europe: The Unequal Struggle, London, Routledge.
  8. Webb, G., Festa, J (1994) Alcohol and other drug problems in the workplace: Is drug testing the appropriate solution. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety - Australia and New Zealand, 10(2): 95-106

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