Don't Worry, I'm a Professional: A study of safety practitioners and their risky recreations

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Rae, Andrew J

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Ewart, Jacqueline A

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Portrayals of those who work in ‘safety’ increasingly conjure images of danger-avoiding crusaders on a quest to prevent exposure to even the most trivial of risks. “Bureaucratic”, “petty”, and “fun police” are just a few of the labels that have been applied to the modern-day safety practitioner, perpetuating a mostly unflattering stereotype. But just how accurate is this characterisation? How do safety practitioners view themselves? These questions were explored via investigating the behaviours and discourses of safety practitioners in the context of their participation in recreational activities that are commonly deemed ‘risky’. Firstly, the proportion of persons who have participated in risky activities is compared for a sample of Australian safety practitioners against a sample of non-safety practitioners. The way in which risky activity participants explain and rationalise the risks of their pursuits to others is then examined in order to identify points of similarity and difference between the groups studied. By means of original quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interview) research, evidence is presented that poses a direct challenge to the safety practitioner stereotype – at least outside of the workplace. It is concluded, with caution, that safety practitioners are more likely to have participated in one or more of a defined set of risky recreational activities than members of the broader population. Clear differences are also established between safety practitioners and others in how they tend to describe the risks related to their activities. These differences are observed across two related dimensions, termed and defined in this thesis as ‘Risk Management/Control Focus’ and ‘Otherness’. The project raises interesting questions about the self-identity of safety practitioners and the influence this may have on how they think about risk and engage with risk in their recreational lives. Further research is necessary, however, to validate the findings of this study, to understand the underlying reasons why a relationship may exist between work as a safety practitioner and recreational activity, and to better appreciate the practical implications of improved knowledge in this area.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Master of Arts Research (MARes)


School of Hum, Lang & Soc Sc

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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safety practitioners

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