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The changing legitimacy of health and safety, 1960-2015: understanding the past, preparing for the future

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‘Health and safety’ currently has an image problem in the UK. This article explores the origins of these current negative perceptions, framed around the concept of legitimacy – the degree to which a policy project of this sort is viewed as right, proper, and appropriate. The article considers and evaluates key moments in the growth and decline of social consensus around health and safety since 1960, including the Robens Committee and subsequent Health and Safety at Work Act, the decline of trade unionism, the extension of health and safety beyond the workplace, and the rise of the safety profession. It concludes that change has been much more subtle and less uniform than general perceptions might suggest, and makes recommendations for how public engagement with occupational health and safety might be restructured.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-96
JournalPolicy and Practice in Health and Safety
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • PPHS_paper_FINAL_post_review_ME_edit_Pure

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in on, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 422 KB, PDF document

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  • IOSH 2016

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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