Small firms and health and safety harmonisation: Potential regulatory effects of a dominant narrative

Rowena Joy Barrett, Susan Elizabeth Mayson, Susanne Therese Bahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Small firms are popularly viewed as resistant to complying with regulation. Harmonisation of Australia s state-based work health and safety regimes is a significant regulatory change. In this article, we consider the likely responses of small firms to work health and safety harmonisation and argue that a range of choices are open to small firm owner-managers. These choices are shaped by individuals world views and are influenced by elements in the firms context. A significant element is the public narrative of work health and safety harmonisation, which can be understood by using discourse and sense-making concepts. Our analysis of small firm owner-manager choices takes into account small firms embeddedness in their regulatory context and the influence on organisational decision-making of the narrative of work health and safety harmonisation. The dominant narrative is arguably silent on the benefits of the work health and safety regulatory change and therefore the response of small firms is likely to be avoidance or minimalism. Non-compliance could be the result due to poor awareness of opportunities arising from this regulatory change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62 - 80
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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