Work accidents: invisible deaths

Office notebook. “I listened to the chilling accounts of the accidents of Adrien, Xavier, Anthony, Raphaël, Yves, Nicolas… What would I be if I remained unmoved by the fight of these men with damaged bodies. never ? “, asks Eric Louis, in an angry but invigorating story of more than thirty years of professional career in precariousness (My thirty (little) glorious ones, The Impostors).

The rickety guardrails, adventurous interventions on factory roofs or in grain silos in the Marne, maintenance operations avoided by small savings or to save time have caused as many deaths or serious injuries. “For many, this record boils down to a few numbers in boxes. May I be forgiven for seeing much more in it. “ Temporary worker Eric Louis talks about dignity in the world of work.

In 2019, in France, 733 employees died in an accident at work, i.e. an average of fourteen per week (excluding commuting accidents), with an over-representation among young people (more numerous in high-risk sectors), men (sharing risk is gendered), temporary workers (poorly trained, poorly equipped), in the health and cleaning sectors.

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Even if Eric Louis’ testimony is a dependent portrait of the temping sector, unflattering for employers, he does not undertake to castigate a sector or a company in particular, but to understand how the death of a individual can be reduced to the profit and loss of economic activity and made invisible by being relegated to the “miscellaneous” rubric.

From the first incidents

Why does this structural problem remain in the background? Sociologist Véronique Daubas-Letourneux, who postulates that“Beyond the individual tragedies and quantified indicators, accidents at work are a social fact”, tries to answer it in his book Work accident. Invisible dead and wounded (Bayard), to be published this Wednesday, September 29. Because it is indeed invisibility that it is a question: who associates the next FIFA World Cup in Qatar with work accidents? And yet, 6,500 workers died there on the construction sites, according to an investigation by Guardian (“Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup”). A record contested by Qatar.

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In France as in Qatar, “The accident calls into question social relations (…), registered in an organization of work and employment which goes beyond the sole framework of the company ”, explains the sociologist.

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