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Readdressing accountability for occupational health and safety in a pandemic era

Lee Parker (School of Accounting, Information Systems and Supply Chain, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia and Adam Smith School of Business, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Venkateshwaran Narayanan (School of Accounting, Information Systems and Supply Chain, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 21 February 2022

Issue publication date: 7 February 2023

538

Abstract

Purpose

In the Covid-19 pandemic era, corporate responsibility and accountability for maintaining employee health and safety, particularly from this pernicious virus, have become a matter of major social and economic importance. From an accountability through action perspective, this study aims to set out to evaluate the potential occupational health and safety accountability consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based upon purposive sampling of several sets of publicly available data including published research literature addressing corporate social responsibility and accountability, and the literature more specifically addressing occupational health and safety (OHS) and its reporting. Also included are recent Web-based reports and articles concerning Covid-19-related OHS government and industry sponsored guidelines for employers and their workplaces across the UK and Australia.

Findings

The findings of this research highlight that firstly, the extant literature on OHS has been predominantly functionalist in its approach and that accountability through action provides an opportunity to make employers more visibly accountable for their response to Covid-19. Secondly, the paper highlights that despite recent progress on OHS issues significant concerns remained in the pre-Covid-19 era and that emerging regulations and legal obligations on employees have the potential to make OHS issues a prominent part of corporate social responsibility research.

Originality/value

Disease and mental health statistics reveal the potential significance of their expansion in the Covid-19 environment, and regulatory and legal liability concerns emerge as potential drivers of renewed corporate as well as researcher attention to OHS issues. Implications for the emergence of a broader range of accountability forms and visibilities are also canvassed.

Keywords

Citation

Parker, L. and Narayanan, V. (2023), "Readdressing accountability for occupational health and safety in a pandemic era", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 78-100. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-06-2021-1350

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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