Labour Intensification, Work Injuries and the Measurement of Percentage Utilization of Labour (PUL)

In this paper, Nichols outlines that while labour intensification has often been assumed to be related to industrial safety, surprisingly different views of this relationship have been held. A measure called the percentage utilization of labour (PUL) claims to monitor the intensity of labour in British manufacturing and therefore potentially affords the opportunity for a much more systematic investigation into the effects of labour intensity on industrial safety than has ever been possible before. This paper introduces the PUL measure and indicates why it might be thought particularly likely to register an increase in the 1980s. It then examines variation in PUL and in industrial injury rates in British manufacturing, both in the early part of the 1980s and over a longer period, in order to assess whether changes in PUL have tended to be associated with changes in safety. No consistent relationship is found. The evidence presented is reviewed, and the relationship between industrial injury rates, intensification of labour and the adequacy of the PUL measure for safety research is reconsidered.

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Abigail Gilbert



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