Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies

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Princeton University Press, 1984 - HEALTH & FITNESS - 451 pages
5 Reviews

Normal Accidents analyzes the social side of technological risk. Charles Perrow argues that the conventional engineering approach to ensuring safety--building in more warnings and safeguards--fails because systems complexity makes failures inevitable. He asserts that typical precautions, by adding to complexity, may help create new categories of accidents. (At Chernobyl, tests of a new safety system helped produce the meltdown and subsequent fire.) By recognizing two dimensions of risk--complex versus linear interactions, and tight versus loose coupling--this book provides a powerful framework for analyzing risks and the organizations that insist we run them.

The first edition fulfilled one reviewer's prediction that it "may mark the beginning of accident research." In the new afterword to this edition Perrow reviews the extensive work on the major accidents of the last fifteen years, including Bhopal, Chernobyl, and the Challenger disaster. The new postscript probes what the author considers to be the "quintessential 'Normal Accident'" of our time: the Y2K computer problem.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gbsallery - LibraryThing

This book was recently reviewed positively in the Economist, which is usually a fairly good tip, and as I am interested in systems and complexity, I picked it up. Having now finished its 400-odd pages ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jbheffernan - LibraryThing

I enjoyed this book very much. As an engineer it provided me with some insights that were new to me. I really appreciated how Perrow showed how sociology had an important and understandable role to play in safety. Read full review

Contents

Abnormal Blessings
vii
Introduction
3
Normal Accident at Three Mile Island
15
Nuclear Power as a HighRisk System Why We Have Not Had More TMIsBut Will Soon
32
Complexity Coupling and Catastrophe
62
Petrochemical Plants
101
Aircraft and Airways
123
Marine Accidents
170
Exotics Space Weapons and DNA
256
Living with HighRisk Systems
304
Afterword
353
The Y2K Problem
388
List of Acronyms
413
Notes
415
Bibliography
426
Index
441

Earthbound Systems Dams Quakes Mines and Lakes
232

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About the author (1984)

Charles Perrow is Professor of Sociology at Yale University. His other books include The Radical Attack on Business, Organizational Analysis: A Sociological View, Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay, and The AIDS Disaster: The Failure of Organizations in New York and the Nation.

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