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Am J Ind Med. 1996 Apr;29(4):373-7.

Making the "new American workplace" safe and healthy: a joint labor-management-researcher approach.

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1
Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick 08903, USA.

Abstract

The American workplace is now in the midst of the most significant change since the advent of mass production. Whether these changes will lead to improvements in worker health and safety is not clear. This paper describes an approach to intervention and research-participatory action research (PAR)-that has the potential to redesign work organizations to improve performance while also improving health and safety. In the PAR method, researchers, managers, workers, and unions collaborate in a process of data-guided problem solving intended both to improve the system's performance and to contribute to general scientific knowledge. A case study example illustrates the use of a PAR approach in an automobile parts facility where labor, management, and researchers jointly conducted a longitudinal project aimed at reducing the major sources of stress and enhancing employee well-being. Results from the 6 year project suggest that, properly implemented, PAR has the potential to both lead to improved intervention and contribute to theoretical advances in occupational safety and health. The PAR approach to intervention research is contrasted with the total quality approach (TQA), and some suggestions are made for improving PAR research designs.

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