Work-related diseases as a challenge for institutionalized prevention in a changing world of work
Authors: Marie Jelenko, Georg Effenberger
Abstract: The world of work is changing. This change becomes obvious by various developments, such as individualization, flexibilization or dissolution of boundaries, which also shape the discourse about subjectification of work (Beck, 1986, Kleemann et al., 2019, Sennett, 2008). Changing work requirements and demands made by employees are closely entwined with changes in health burdens of working people (Eurofound and EU-OSHA, 2014, Eurofound and ILO, 2017, Kratzer et al., 2011, Mauno et al., 2019, Siegrist, 2019). While the numbers of workplace accidents decline, an increasing emergence of work-related diseases can be observed. Contemporaneously, long-term health maintenance and employability is gaining importance in Europe as access conditions to welfare state benefits is becoming increasingly restricted (Böhle and Lessenich, 2018, Vogel, 2018).The prevention of accidents and diseases at workplace is historically rooted in the welfare state and associated with certain traditions of thought (Dixon, 1999, Esping-Andersen, 1990, Moses, 2019). In Austria, workplace disease prevention is based on regulations of occupational health and safety (OHS) as well as statutory accident insurance (Püringer, 2014). Interpretation and communication of these regulations through legally mandated institutions strongly influence companies‘ OHS prevention measures. However, in the face of tertiarization processes and the subjectification of work and in view of the “4 Fs” of change at work – feminization, flexibilization, fragmentation and financialization – traditional prevention discourses and practices run the risk of excluding growing parts of the working population (Kangas, 2010, Rubery, 2015). This paper takes up the developments described above and carries them forward using the results of Marie Jelenko's dissertation (2021) on current prevention discourses. The focus is on Austria's central state mediating bodies, the Labor Inspectorate and the Workers' Compensation Board. Within the methodological framework of Grounded Theory, Jelenko conducted qualitative interviews, additionally including a large number of relevant documents in her analysis (Bogner et al., 2014, Strauss, 1994, Wolff, 2010). The findings reveal conservative as well as dynamic approaches to work-related disease prevention at the level of intermediary social policy agencies.
Keywords: Changes in the world of work, welfare state, prevention of work-related diseases, psychosocial stress, carcinogens
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