Injury, death, and the deregulation fetish: the politics of occupational safety regulation in U.K. manufacturing industries

Int J Health Serv. 1996;26(2):309-29. doi: 10.2190/TCU3-JGYU-RG87-XJUR.


The author examines some of the more recent developments in the social and political environments within which the "deregulation fetish" is crucial, but of which it remains only one element. This fetish, as part of a broader assault on the legitimacy of the external regulation of business activity, will not go away; its effects are already being felt in the context of the regulation of occupational safety in the United Kingdom. After outlining recent trends in recorded injuries in U.K. workplaces, with particular reference to manufacturing industries, the author charts the nature and effects of the social and political contexts of the work of U.K. safety regulators in the 1980s. While Thatcher governments withdrew from any direct deregulatory assault on occupational safety, what transpired was a gradual but continual undermining of the ability of these agencies to fulfill their mandated functions. The nature and effects of a new politics of deregulation are examined and this new politics is related to U.K. governmental opposition to European Union influence in domestic social policy, which stands in a symbiotic relationship with the re-emergence of a sustained deregulatory discourse in the United Kingdom.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / mortality
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Economic Competition
  • European Union
  • Facility Regulation and Control / trends*
  • Government Agencies
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Occupational Health / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Politics*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Workplace