Ugochukwu Orazulike

Comparing Introspective and Extrospective Forms of Occupational Safety and Health Standards

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This paper provides a descriptive account of two models of occupational safety and health (OSH) regulation, the introspective perspective of OSH, and the extrospective perspective of OSH. It presents the comparative view of those perspectives of OSH standards by assessing some of the institutional roles that trade unions could play in the promotion of the highest standards of OSH legal protections which workers are entitled to, in the US and in the EU, drawing insights from Kathleen Thelen's 2014 book Varieties of Liberalisation and the New Politics of Social Solidarity. The paper also examines whether unionisation plays any significant roles in the implementation of the best institutional standards for the occupational safety, health and wellbeing of workers in their working environments. Two aspects of unionisation will guide the evaluative assessment of OSH standards in Thelen's liberalised market economy (LME) versus coordinated market economies (CMEs): (i) factors attributable to unionisation in the practice of institutionally set legal OSH standards, and (ii) factors attributable to unionisation in the socio-political practice of institutional policy standards for OSH. With introspective versus extrospective OSH at the back of mind, the paper further considers the importance of unionisation/ union density in Thelen's account of industrial relation, vocational education and training (VET), and labour market policies in the LMEs versus the CMEs. In considering the standards that could be attributed to high or low union density, the paper highlights why lmes tend to practice introspective OSH standards, whereas the cmes have the tendency to practice OSH standards that are extrospective in nature. In summation, it is argued that constructive social dialogue, efficient OSH VET, and coordinated labour market policies are crucial drivers of extrospective OSH standards; and that many workers in the introspective OSH system are still far from enjoying the high OSH legal and institutional protection standards which are generally available to workers in the extrospective OSH systems.

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