ChapterPDF Available

Regulating Safety, Regulating Profit: cost cutting, injury and death in the North Sea after Piper Alpha

Authors:
... Better emergency infrastructure in rich countries is an important factor in minimising the death toll from storms, earthquakes and the like when compared to poor/ middle-income countries where these are absent or less developed/resourced. Even so, outmoded or inappropriate advice may kill -well evidenced by incidents like the 1988 Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster where workers disobeying management's emergency procedures had better survival chances those following them (Whyte, 2006). ...
Article
Full-text available
Human civilisation faces a series of existential threats from the combination of five global and human-engineered challenges, namely climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation, overpopulation and rising social inequality. These challenges are arguably being manifested in both an increased likelihood and magnified impact of catastrophes like forest fires, prolonged droughts, pandemics and social dislocation/upheaval. This article argues that in understanding and addressing these challenges, important lessons can be drawn from what has repeatedly caused organisational failures. It applies the ‘Ten Pathways to Disaster’ model to a series of disasters/catastrophic events and then argues this model is salient to understanding inadequate responses to the five threats to civilisation. The article argues that because these challenges interact in mutually reinforcing ways, it is critical to address them simultaneously not in isolation. JEL Codes: H12, I14, I31, J11, Q01
... For example, examinations of systematic accounting malpractice and tax evasion are discussed by Mitchell, Sikka & Willmott (1998), Sikka & Willmott (2010), and Sikka (2008) considers the collusion of professional accountancy institutions in this. Similarly the nefarious collusion of state and corporate elites has been challenged by Tombs & Whyte (2003;Whyte 2012), which can threaten the safety of workers and communities alike and lead to the failure of regulatory bodies to be effective in meeting their objectives (Tombs & Whyte 2008Whyte 2006). ...
... Examinations of systematic accounting malpractice, tax evasion and the collusion of accounting institutions in these practices are undertaken by Mitchell, Sikka and Willmott (1998), Sikka (2008), Sikka and Willmott (2010) and Christensen (2011). The nefarious collusion of state and corporate elites has been challenged by Tombs and Whyte (2003; Whyte, 2012), who also look at how corporate interests narrowly pursued can threaten the safety of workers and communities alike (Tombs & Whyte, 2006) and lead to the failure of regulatory bodies to be effective in meeting their objectives (Tombs & Whyte, 2008; Whyte, 2006 ). This wilful embrace of (borderline) illegality has also led to examination of organizations set up specifically for nefarious objectives, including organized crime (see Dupla, Very & Monnet, 2012; Durand & Vergne, 2012; Enderwick, 2009; Fiorentini & Peltzman, 1995; Gond, Palazzo & Basu, 2009; Hobbs, 1988 Hobbs, , 1995 Hobbs, , 2013 Monin & Croidieu, 2012; Punch, 1996; Parker, 2008 Parker, , 2012 Very & Wilson,2012; and the special issue on the topic in M@n@gement [15, 3, 2012] ). ...
... The vertical hierarchy that was imposed between UCC and UCIL meant that UCC was able to drive conditions in the Bhopal plant to an unacceptably dangerous level (Pearce and Tombs, 2012). The vertical hierarchy between operating companies and sub-contractors on the Piper Alpha platform encouraged a brutal work regime in which workers warnings of safety problems on the platform were actively ignored and discouraged (Whyte, 2006). In other words, the same hierarchal structures that partly led to those atrocities were then used by those at the top of the hierarchy in order to secure their impunity. ...
Book
Full-text available
Drawing upon a wide range of sources of empirical evidence, historical analysis and theoretical argument, this book shows beyond any doubt that the private, profit-making, corporation is a habitual and routine offender. The book dissects the myth that the corporation can be a rational, responsible, 'citizen'. It shows how in its present form, the corporation is permitted, licensed and encouraged to systematically kill, maim and steal for profit. Corporations are constructed through law and politics in ways that impel them to cause harm to people and the environment. In other words, criminality is part of the DNA of the modern corporation. Therefore, the authors argue, the corporation cannot be easily reformed. The only feasible solution to this 'crime' problem is to abolish the legal and political privileges that enable the corporation to act with impunity.
... Workplaces are depicted as " naturally " risky spaces, workers are seen as free to choose " safe " workplaces, and if they do not, they freely assume risk, and workers' compensation laws are " no-fault. " Despite two centuries of struggle by workers' groups and other activists (Whyte 2006 ), laws sanctioning employers were introduced only when public discontent threatened the economic and political elites of the era (Snider 2015 ). Th is legacy has produced a regulatory system that sees persuasion and education as the remedies of choice for negligent employers, and turns to criminal law only as a last resort. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article interrogates the laws that govern safety crimes, harmful but typically unintentional acts of negligence that occur in the production of goods and services. Acts that injure employees at work are commonly depicted in legal discourses as accidents and penalized through administrative laws, although other negligent acts such as driving offences causing injury or death are treated as potentially criminal events. Through a discourse analysis of legal and regulatory texts and documents, the authors argue that the constitution of workplace safety crime is rooted in complex historical factors that shape state responses to corporate wrongdoing. This article documents the roots of this “common sense” view of workplace crime, empirically focusing on Canadian corporate negligence law, and concludes with tentative strategies of resistance and change.
... Inspectors regard managements rather than workers as their primary point of contact in regulated workplaces. Inspectors are normally reluctant to meet with workers to discuss matters confidentially or to use workers' complaints as a basis for questioning employers' systems of safety management (Whyte, 2006). This approach often causes problems for workers who contact the HSE directly when their concerns are not being taken seriously in the workplace, since the HSE are reluctant to investigate complaints without revealing the identity of workers or the precise nature of the complaint (Whyte, 2000). ...
... Examinations of systematic accounting malpractice, tax evasion and the collusion of accounting institutions in these practices are undertaken by Mitchell, Sikka and Willmott (1998), Sikka (2008), Sikka and Willmott (2010) and Christensen (2011). The nefarious collusion of state and corporate elites has been challenged by Tombs and Whyte (2003;Whyte, 2012), who also look at how corporate interests narrowly pursued can threaten the safety of workers and communities alike (Tombs & Whyte, 2006) and lead to the failure of regulatory bodies to be effective in meeting their objectives (Tombs & Whyte, 2008;Whyte, 2006). This wilful embrace of (borderline) illegality has also led to examination of organizations set up specifically for nefarious objectives, including organized crime (see Dupla, Very & Monnet, 2012;Durand & Vergne, 2012;Enderwick, 2009;Fiorentini & Peltzman, 1995;Gond, Palazzo & Basu, 2009;Hobbs, 1988Hobbs, , 1995Hobbs, , 2013Monin & Croidieu, 2012;Punch, 1996;Parker, 2008Parker, , 2012Very & Wilson,2012; and the special issue on the topic in M@n@gement [15,3,2012]). ...
... The Health and Safety Executive knew of this practice, yet refused to acknowledge it, let alone intervene in it (Whyte, 1999). Further, following the construction of a new regulatory regime after the 'disaster' and the official inquiry into its causes, the use of the NRB continued (Whyte, 2006), its acknowledgement only being formally made in 2009 (Blowout, 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
Whistleblowing has emerged as a key element of regulatory strategy. This article provides a brief, theoretical analysis of the claimed affinities between whistleblowing, self-regulation and corporate social responsibility. It then addresses a series of key issues in relation to whistleblowing: the individual, organisational and social characteristics associated with the decision to blow the whistle (or not); the consequences of reporting organisational harm for whistleblowers; and the robustness of legal protections for those who report such harm. Finally, it raises a series of challenges to the idea, reality and potential of whistleblowing as part of an effective self-regulatory strategy.
Article
The paper assesses the effectiveness of the Canadian offshore oil safety regulatory regime leading up to a helicopter crash in 2009 with 17 fatalities, and in the context of international concern about offshore helicopter safety, a previous Canadian offshore disaster and international debates on the impact of the continuing shift towards goal setting in a deregulatory environment. The study was informed by assessment criteria synthesised from the literature, namely the evaluation of institutional design (the likelihood of independence) and regulatory process (gathering information on risk, setting standards, enforcement, participation and transparency). Qualitative analysis of documentary data generated from provincial and national investigations – including verbatim transcripts of inquiry evidence provided by industry, labour and government, plus regulatory and media sources – was used to assess the role of the regulators involved. The paper concludes that the regulatory framework had been largely ineffective leading up to the crash. The institutional design of the offshore regulator, which had dual responsibility for resource development and safety, was concluded as problematic and likely to have been connected to failures regarding all the regulatory process criteria. The federal regulator, responsible for Canadian aviation safety, was also seen as ineffective. In particular, safety standards were low in the operators' contracts with the helicopter company, featuring many regulatory gaps, with missing or inadequate emergency technology in the helicopter itself, personal survival equipment, and search and rescue. Subsequent improvements in regulatory process are seen as limited by the low likelihood of important structural reform and the closure of vital regulatory gaps, given current government deregulatory policies.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.