The Changing Legitimacy of Health and Safety Regulation, 1960-2013

Changing Legitimacy H&S

An IOSH-funded research project at the Universities of Reading and Portsmouth

This project aims to investigate how the social standing and perceived value of health and safety (H&S) regulation has changed over the last 50 years. The project is led by Professor Paul Almond of the School of Law at the University of Reading, in partnership with Dr Mike Esbester of the School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies at the University of Portsmouth, and funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Health and safety law has become a central and accepted part of the modern workplace during the last fifty years, and rates of injury and death have fallen significantly. But public hostility towards 'elf and safety' has increased dramatically in recent years, with negative media coverage of these issues coming to the fore.

The project offers an opportunity to look back at what has changed during this period and why, and to identify the turning points in public perceptions of health and safety in recent years. One of the particular strengths of the project is that it combines an understanding of historical perspectives with analysis of contemporary practice, in order to see how the past influences the present, and how that insight might be used to make a difference in the future. The two-year project will involve a series of interviews conducted with key stakeholders from H&S practice, including former regulators, politicians and policymakers, workers and trade union safety representatives, employers and managers, and others who have played an active role in the law in this area over the last half-century. Focus groups will assess public attitudes and perceptions towards H+S regulation, and historical and archival analysis of a multitude of different sources and documents will examine the changing representation and arguments that have been made about it over time.

The research team

Research Podcast

Contemporary problem of public perceptions of health and safety regulation.

Professor Paul Almond discusses some of the research underpinning the project, into the contemporary problem of public perceptions of H+S regulation.

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Professor Grace James, Director of Research


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