Learning and praxis for workplace safety

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Yap, Kristine
Choy, Sarojni
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This paper aims to present findings from a qualitative case study which investigated how workers engage in workplace learning for safe work in a precarious workplace. The findings from this research suggest that learning to work safely is firmly embedded within the social cultural fabric of workplaces, and is intentionally driven to maintain coherence in ideologies, values and practices for effective praxis. Design/methodology/approach

This study was conducted in a petrochemical plant in Singapore. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with 20 site operators who held positions as engineers, plant workers and maintenance technicians. These site operators were directly involved in working with dangerous chemicals and high-risk equipment and processes; their conversations elicited an in-depth understanding of individuals’ experiences, providing an account of how participants learnt safe work practices in a precarious work setting. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. Data were coded and analysed using an inductive analytical approach to identify key themes about workers’ learning in the workplace. Findings

The findings suggest that learning to work safely is a socially constructed and facilitated process – leading to intentionalising what is learnt. The participants’ experiences suggest that safe work practices materialise through collective action, shared knowledge and responsibility to generally seek sameness for recursive practice. The significance of inter-subjectivity and intentionality are discussed with respect to how they intersect within the social cultural context of precarious work sites, where learning and praxis are seamlessly commingled to achieve effective praxis in workplace safety. A combination of contributions at organisation, individual and group levels supports the social cultural environment. The study concludes that a combination of mutually bound learning space, relational agency and dialogic interactions provides communicative spaces and mediates learning that nurtures inter-subjectivity and intentionality to work safely. Research limitations/implications

As the study is situated in a particular case context, replication of this research with different occupational groups in other precarious workplaces is needed for further insights on social construction of learning spaces for safety practice. Practical implications

This paper concludes that deliberate and cautious efforts are necessary to create contextual conditions for learning and to promote greater inter-subjectivity and intentionality for effective praxis. Group interactions and partnerships at work are advocated to generate mindful learning and a common frame of reference that the work community recognises, values and shares. These social processes provide necessary communicative spaces for clarification and validation of what is learnt and what is being interpreted by individuals. The quality and legitimacy of guidance are also emphasised to validate the expertise of those providing guidance, effective mentorship and intervention for the distribution of knowledge. Furthermore, strong and committed leadership is necessary to sustain the social cultural architectures that will support learning and praxis for safety. Originality/value

This study offers insight about pedagogical contributions to learning about safe work practices in distinct circumstances of work.

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Journal of Workplace Learning

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Human resources and industrial relations

Education systems

Education systems not elsewhere classified

Vocational education and training curriculum and pedagogy

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