Regulating Exposure: Routine Deaths, Work and the Covid Crisis

Tombs, Steve (2023). Regulating Exposure: Routine Deaths, Work and the Covid Crisis. Mortality: Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying, 28(2) pp. 207–219.



This paper examines the juxtaposition of two phenomena – deaths at work and coronavirus deaths – in the context of regulatory strategies which are ostensibly to prevent such deaths. More specifically, my particular focus is on the ways in which work, working and workplaces were managed – and indeed somewhat obscured – during the pandemic, so that the normalisation of work-related deaths by and large continued, even perhaps exacerbated, certainly killing tens of thousands of workers. To this end, in the following sections, I begin, first, by examining in historical context how workplace death because normalised through law and regulation, then turn to focus upon the various ways in deaths were further normalised and obscured during the pandemic in the UK. A key conceptual and empirical reference point here is regulation – a phenomenon and process which, as illustrated across different aspects of the pandemic, is revealed as permitting and routinising deaths related to work and working.

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