Theses and Dissertations, Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society

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  • Safety at the Margins: A Rhetorical Analysis of Occupational Risk Communication in Construction
    Patriarca, Ashley S. (Virginia Tech, 2013-05-07)
    This dissertation focuses on occupational risk communication created by grantees of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration\'s Susan Harwood Training Grant (SHTG) Program. Although the SHTG program is aimed at workers in most high-hazard industries, I focus on occupational risk communication developed for residential construction workers, who remain the most at-risk for on-the-job injuries and fatalities. In 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 721 construction workers died in work-related accidents (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). In this study, I relied primarily on two research methods: context-sensitive text analysis of deliverables created by twelve SHTG program grantees from 2006-2009 and interviews with representatives of four of these twelve grantees. The findings from this research illustrate the complexity of creating occupational risk communication in grant-related institutional settings. Although the process might seem straightforward, it is composed of twelve milestones, each of which can result in difficulties for the final deliverables. Grantees are asked to create safety training deliverables that includes principles of active workplace learning; however, qualitative analysis of these deliverables indicates that such principles are rarely enacted. Instead, the deliverables are marked by an emphasis on technical language, as well as by death-focused justification strategies that scare trainees into following the guidelines being presented. Each of these characteristics can alienate audiences of varied linguistic and cultural backgrounds, such as those found in the construction industry.