The myths and realities of deterrence in workplace safety regulation

Tombs, Steve and Whyte, David (2013). The myths and realities of deterrence in workplace safety regulation. British Journal of Criminology, 53(5) pp. 746–763.




Given the proliferation of the use of deterrence in neo-liberal crime control policies, it is remarkable that this concept remains absent from the study and practice of corporate regulation. The paper explores this absence in the regulation literature, highlighting a series of widely accepted myths about deterrence in this literature, myths that have also been reproduced in British policy debates. Having discussed the enduring, if hidden, adherence to deterrence across this literature, we then go on to discuss the significant absences of deterrence and, in doing so, we focus specifically upon the dynamics of law enforcement, as it applies in the case of UK workplace health and safety law. The paper concludes that only through a careful consideration of the politics and praxis of law enforcement can we adequately grasp the context of the regulation of workplace safety—what the proper place of deterrence is and how it might be better secured.

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