Death by Consensus: The Westray Story

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New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy. Volume 3, Number 4 (1993), p. 14-41.


political context of Westray mine disaster; political economy and Westray Mine; Westray mine; Westray mine disaster


The paper will proceed as follows. It tells the Westray story in two parts, first, the decision to set up the mine and, second, the operation of the mine. These events illuminate the salience of the broader political economic context to an understanding of what happened. Further, the story gives the lie to the assumptions which underpin health and safety regulation. Next, the paper details the implications of the political economy and the prevailing ideology for the enforcement of health and safety regulation. The paper then critically examines a component of, or prop for, the consensus theory which postulates that workers and capitalists share, in some roughly comparable way, the risks of production. In part this is done by examining the proposition that the corporate form is a neutral, facilitating device.

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