The Utah Center for Promotion of Work Equity Research asks the following questions:
Who holds power at work?
What impact does power have on work conditions and work equity?
And finally, how can better understanding the role of power promote work equity and Total Worker Health?
The study of power at work allows us to examine the underlying structures and causes of unsafe and unhealthy work. Work equity refers to equity in who has access to safe, healthy work, where inequity arises from injustices that create work conditions that adversely impact workers’ safety, health, and well-being, and leads to inequality in health outcomes among workers.
Power comes from historical and current ideologies, or ideas about what work should look like, what types of work are valued, how work has been traditionally performed, who has traditionally performed a certain type of work, and so on.
Economic, political, and social structures and ideologies define work conditions. For example, the labor market defines work conditions related to employment relationships, work arrangements, and norms for compensation and benefits. The labor market can also reinforce the social exclusion of women, racialized groups, immigrants, and indigenous people by limiting social advancement as well as participation in and access to normal forms of livelihood.
We can also see power at work through relationships between workers and overseeing parties, and regulations and policies that seek to define safety and create healthy work conditions. We can also explore how limitations in existing regulations and enforcement practices can lead to unsafe work.
By studying power, we can design and develop means to overcome the multifaceted barriers to safe and healthy work.