Splintered structures and workers without a workplace: How should safety science address the fragmentation of organizations?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionSafety Science. 2021, 148 . 10.1016/j.ssci.2021.105644
Organizational fragmentation presents a challenge to prominent safety perspectives hinged upon the traditional concept of the organization. The continuing disjunction in the workplace has reached new heights in the recent phenomenon of platform-mediated work (PMW), where workers engage in on-demand labor mediated by platforms. In this paper, the explanatory power of some influential organizational perspectives in safety science is explored in relation to PMW. Neoteric business models combined with platform technology introduce alterations in accountability, goal conflicts, and social relations. These changes necessitate adjustments in our perspectives to address the safety challenges of a fissured, contemporary work-life. This qualitative study based on interviews with 37 delivery platform workers and managers in the Nordic region and observations of two online courier communities reveals features that diverge from traditional work settings. Sociotechnical systems thinking is applied in examining goal conflicts arising from work contexts where the traditional employer-employee relationships are becoming transformed into two-sided marketplaces for clients and platform workers selling labor. The long tradition for addressing culture in safety science is then considered in analyzing its applicability to PMW. Finally, we reflect on how the safety research community can address the fragmentation of the organization.