Workplace fiddles in the shipping industry

Helen Devereux, Emma Wadsworth, Syamantak Bhattacharya

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    The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which workers employ rule-breaking, rule-bending and deviations from management defined norms in the workplace and the impact this has on their occupational health and safety (OHS) experiences.
    The paper uses qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted with thirty-seven seafarers working on board four vessels engaged in international trade. The data were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed using NVivo software.
    The findings indicate that seafarers utilised workplace fiddles – which included rule-breaking, rule-bending and deviating from management defined norms – in order to engender a workable system in which they could remain safe but also profitable to those who controlled their labour. Moreover, the findings suggest that shore-side management deflected the responsibility for rule violations by deferring many of the decisions regarding features of life on board – such as the scheduling of work hours – to the senior officers on board.
    The paper sheds light on where, in practice, responsibility for OHS lies in the international shipping industry, an industry in which workers experience relatively high rates of work-related fatalities, injuries and mental health conditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)933-948
    Number of pages16
    JournalEmployee Relations
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2020


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