0155 Negotiating risks and uncertainties: health and safety decision-making in the mines of potosí (bolivia)

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Abstract

It is generally agreed that knowledge of the causes and consequences of a particular OHS risk influences the way people prepare for and respond to it. My ethnographic research among the cooperative miners working in Potosí’s Cerro Rico shows however a much more complex scenario, in which miners simultaneously face a number of physical, geological, socio-political and economic risks and uncertainties as they go about their work and lives which must be carefully weighed against each other. Miners often have little or no control over most of these risks that simultaneously affect them, and health and safety risks are only a small group of concerns. Prone to take risks to their health at work as a strategy to manage other risks that simultaneously affect them Potosi’s miners are well aware of the potential losses of taking OHS risks, but also of the potential gains of their decisions. This presentation offers an anthropological account of the factors, conflicts and negotiations that shape voluntary health and safety risk taking amongst the cooperative miners working in the Cerro Rico of Potosií. Unveiling the complex factors and relationships that impede the miners’ ability to respond to OHS risks as per their wishes and understandings this presentation demonstrates the need for revisiting the value of OHS risk perceptions as strategy to eliminate occupational injuries.

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