chapter  7
38 Pages

The social construction of accidents

The last chapter situated accidents as a facet of the “risk society”. The understanding and management of misfortune in the late twentieth cen­ tury is, it was argued, predicated on our ability to monitor and manage risks in an ever widening range of arenas. With the fracturing of any con­ sensus about what constitutes “expert” opinion, the responsibility for this risk assessment is individualized. We are all engaged in a seemingly irre­ sistible strategy of constant risk management. Accidents are central to this management in two ways. First, that accidents happen demonstrates that risks have been inadequately managed and, further, that increased vigi­ lance about risks is therefore necessary. Second, accidents constitute the ultimate test of risk management as a strategy: to predict and manage the unpredictable and apparently random. This chapter explores how risk management is achieved at the level of everyday interaction: how we con­ struct ourselves as competent risk assessors through everyday accident prevention activities and talk about them.