The Toll from Toil Revisited

Historical Lessons in Workplace Health and Safety

Call for Papers for a special issue of Labour History (November 2020).

West Gate Bridge Memorial Park, 2018

Deadline for submission: 1 December 2019.

In 1997, Labour History published a special issue of occupational health and safety scholarship, grounded in an ongoing concern that workers, their families, and their communities pay a heavy price for workforce participation – the toll from toil. The aim of the special issue was to demonstrate that labour history scholarship can make a valuable contribution to understanding of occupational health and safety problems in the workplace. Using diverse historical practices, including the more democratic historical methodologies that characterise labour historians’ focus on the lives of working people, labour historians have a special role to play in revealing often hidden histories of past employer, union, and worker health and safety practices. Twenty years on, the growth of “new” forms of work organisation prompts a similar urgency to maintain our commitment to critical research that can help to promote safety at work.

The publication of the November 2020 volume of Labour History will appear in the same year as the 50th anniversary of the collapse, during construction, of the West Gate Bridge, a tragedy that cost 35 lives. It is our hope that a special issue of Labour History will contribute to timely debates about the past and present dangers of sub-contracting, the neglect of safety concerns in the pursuit of production schedules, and the risks inherent in weakened worker “voice.” We welcome papers about safety at work that combine these and other historical and contemporary dimensions.

As the official journal of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Labour History publishes papers on both Australian and non-Australian topics, and on topics which consider the interactions between Australia and the wider world. To submit a paper for consideration and double-blind peer review, please email Carl Power ( Advice for authors can be found on the ASSLH website (

If you have any questions about this special issue of Labour History, please contact the editors, Professor Michael Quinlan ( or Dr Sarah Gregson (