Discursive constructions of electricians in discussions about musculoskeletal disorders among professionals in the field

Year: 2018

Author: Björklund, Erika, Djupsjöbacka, Mats, Nordlöf, Hasse

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Electricians have an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) compared to most other blue collar professions. Many end up with chronic disabilities, forcing them to change careers or to go on sickness pension. Besides negative consequences for the individuals concerned, MSDs also have a detrimental impact on the workforce (reduced number of professionals) and on society (financial costs). It is therefore important to find ways to prevent MSDs and to promote good ergonomic behavior. Electricians’ knowledge and habits regarding MSDs are first formed and shaped in school, during vocational education to become an electrician. In the course of this time the students have periods of internship during which they interact with professionals within the field. Drawing on the ideas of bio-power and governmentality, as introduced and developed by Foucault and developed further by Rose, discourses govern how it is possible to think and act. From this standpoint, then, talk and discourses are not perceived as innocent or ‘mere’ talk but as producing and regulating subjects through their acquisition of specific dispositions, tastes and abilities. Thus, discourses drawn on about electricians and the profession during the students’ internship will govern how it is possible for the students to think and act about themselves and others in relation to both ergonomic behavior and MSDs and, by extension, will have material effects on electricians’ health. This means that, to foster healthy ergonomic behavior one needs to consider how electricians are thought of within the field, i.e. how electricians and the profession are discursively conceived. The purpose of this paper is thus to explore discursive constructions of electricians and the profession as these were expressed in discussions about MSDs among professionals in the field.  Two semi-structured focus group interviews and one individual interview with professionals in the field were conducted. The participants were asked to discuss ideas about i) causes as to why electricians develop MSDs, ii) consequences and effects of MSDs, and iii) ideas about what could be done to prevent MSDs. The interviews were transcribed and the material is currently being discursively analyzed with questions in mind about how the participants conceived of electricians and the profession. Results will be presented at the conference, but preliminary analyses suggests that predominant discourses are concerned with the masculinity of electricians as well as with their time pressured work situation, both contributing to casualness towards ergonomic behavior.