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Journal cover: Employee Relations

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Online from: 1979

Subject Area: Human Resource Management

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Economic pressure, multi-tiered subcontracting and occupational health and safety in Australian long-haul trucking

Document Information:
Title:Economic pressure, multi-tiered subcontracting and occupational health and safety in Australian long-haul trucking
Author(s):Claire Mayhew, (School of Management, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia), Michael Quinlan, (School of Organisation and Management, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Citation:Claire Mayhew, Michael Quinlan, (2006) "Economic pressure, multi-tiered subcontracting and occupational health and safety in Australian long-haul trucking", Employee Relations, Vol. 28 Iss: 3, pp.212 - 229
Keywords:Australia, Contingent workers, Employment, Injuries, Occupational health and safety, Road transport
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/01425450610661216 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – The purpose of this research is to analyse the relationship between economic pressure, multi-tiered subcontracting and occupational health and safety (OHS) outcomes for employee and owner/drivers in long-haul trucking, using Australian evidence.

Design/methodology/approach – The analysis is based on direct interviews with 300 long-haul drivers, using a structured questionnaire along with an examination of documentary records, statistics and government reports. Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered on self-reported acute and chronic injuries, the incidence of occupational violence, truck crashes, indicators of illicit drug use, hours of work/fatigue and psychological distress.

Findings – Variations between owner/drivers and employees working for small and large firms were investigated. Overall, owner/drivers reported worse OHS than small fleet and, more especially, large fleet drivers. Evidence also indicated a connection between economic pressure, the expansion of contingent work and negative OHS outcomes.

Research limitations/implications – Further longitudinal and comparative research is needed to test the hypothesized link between competitive pressures, supply chain rationalization and OHS outcomes. Research to investigate these issues in other countries is required in order to compare findings with those for Australia and to assess the effectiveness of new enforcement initiatives.

Practical implications – Findings suggest the need for policy interventions aimed at improving OHS to address commercial practices, including elaborate subcontracting chains, more explicitly than is currently the case with road transport regulation. Recent moves in this direction are identified.

Originality/value – Unlike manufacturing, healthcare and the public sector, there have been few studies of the OHS effects associated with contingent work arrangements in transport. In addition to helping to fill this gap the paper provides evidence on the effects of competitive pressure and supply chains on work practices and OHS.

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