Finding common ground in OHS: The use of commemoratives in young worker injury prevention

Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Liz Mansfield
Institute for Work & Health

This presentation reports on findings from a case study of the Canadian LifeQuilt, a commemorative quilt and online memorial website dedicated to the remembrance of 100 young workers who died at work.

The LifeQuilt is an Ontario-based multipartite project that took place between 2001 and 2003 and was produced by the combined efforts of the artist, health and safety organizations, unions, employers, workers’ compensation boards, governments and families of young workers killed on the job. The LifeQuilt aims to both commemorate the lives of those fatally injured while at work and tell the stories of young people tragically killed on the job for the purposes of prevention and remembrance. A central rationale behind the project, described as serving both the goals of remembrance and prevention, is that by becoming more aware of the personal injury accounts of deceased young workers, future workplace deaths might be avoided.

The presentation will explore key narrative features of online injury commemoratives constructed as lessons in occupational injury prevention and workplace safety parables. More specifically, it will look at how these young worker deaths are described as preventable and predictable events, and what this accomplishes. Some of the strengths and challenges of engaging personal injury accounts — as a strategy to build cross-institutional collaboration within OHS and to communicate workplace safety messages to broad-based audiences — will also be considered.

This study is the dissertation research of Liz Mansfield, a medical sociologist and qualitative researcher. She is a Mustard Fellow at the Institute for Work & Health and a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include injury prevention media communications, the implementation and evaluation of young worker educational interventions, and the interface between prevention delivery systems and small businesses. Liz is in the final stages of her doctoral dissertation, “Injury commemoratives and the politics of prevention: Sociological perspectives on a young worker safety campaign.”