How the front-line "works" at Ontario's WSIB

Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Joan Eakin
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

This presentation will report on an ethnographic study of front-line service work in Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), specifically the work of adjudicators, nurse case managers and customer service representatives servicing small businesses. The aim of the study was to understand and explain, from a sociological perspective and in relation to institutional context, the nature, logic and social relations of work at the front lines.

The presentation will outline the study's four key findings, namely that:

  1. work at the front lines is framed in significant ways by the disciplinary role and contradictory operating imperatives of the WSIB as an institution;
  2. front-line work is a professional assembly line;
  3. front-line work involves strategic discursive and discretionary practices; and
  4. front-line work with small business has a distinctive social form and is affected by the marginal status of small business within the operating framework of the WSIB.

The presentation will reflect on the relevance and implications of these findings for key stakeholders in the compensation system: injured/ill workers, employers, the WSIB and the OHS system as a whole.

The full research report upon which this presentation is based is also available as a working paper.