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Accident Analysis is carried out in order to determine the cause or causes of an accident or series of accidents so as prevent further incidents of a similar kind. It is also known as accident investigation. It may be performed by a range of experts, including forensic scientists, forensic engineers or health and safety advisers.
Accident Analysis is performed in four steps:
- Fact gathering After an accident happened a forensic process starts to gather all possibly relevant facts that may contribute to understanding the accident.
- Fact Analysis After the forensic process has been completed or at least delivered some results the facts are put together to give a "big picture." The history of the accident is reconstructed and checked for consistency and plausibility.
- Conclusion Drawing If the accident history is sufficiently informative conclusions can be drawn about causation and contributing factors.
- Countermeasures In some cases the development of countermeasures is desired or recommendations have to be issued to prevent further accidents of the same kind.
There exist numerous forms of Accident Analysis methods. These can be divided into three categories (in alphabetical order):
- Causal Analysis uses the principle of causality to determine the course of events. Though people casually speak of a "chain of events" results from Causal Analysis usually have the form of directed a-cyclic graphs. The nodes being events and the edges the cause-effect relations. Methods of Causal Analysis differ in their respective notion of causation.
- Expert Analysis relies on the knowledge and experience of field experts. This form of analysis usually lacks a rigorous (formal/semiformal) methodological approach. This usually affects falsify-ability and objectivity of analyses. This is of importance when conclusions are heavily disputed among experts.
- Organisational Analysis relies on systemic theories of organisation. Most theories imply that if a systems behaviour stayed within the bounds of the ideal organisation then no accidents can occur. Organisational Analysis can be falsified and results from analyses can be checked for objectivity. Choosing an organisational theory for accident analysis comes implies the assumption that the system to be analysed conforms to that theory.
Accident Analysis Methods
- Failure mode and effects analysis
- Forensic engineering
- Forensic science
- Why-Because Analysis
"Accident Investigation". U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/accidentinvestigation/index.html. Retrieved 2007-05-12.