“Risk Can Be Identified and Controlled. Therefore All Industrial Disasters Are Preventable.” Discuss.

2657 Words May 24th, 2013 11 Pages
“Risk can be identified and controlled. Therefore all industrial disasters are preventable.” Discuss.

This essay discusses the apparently logical proposition that if risk can be identified and controlled, industrial disasters are preventable. It first examines the concepts of ‘risk’, ‘identification and control’, ‘disaster’ and ‘preventable’ before examining the nature of the industrial disaster through a systems approach; it will be shown that a disaster can be deconstructed in order to present a series of ‘hooks’ on which preventative action could be taken. However, the nature of the system and organizational culture in which it operates prohibits those lessons from being applied. Furthermore, not only are there limits to lessons,
…show more content…
This can be a result of a particular world view, or organizational culture (see Sagan below). A reductionist approach cannot provide the scope or detail to fully maximize isomorphic learning.

A second general issue is the assertion that disasters are so inherently complex that it is impossible to achieve a total understanding of what has occurred (Module 1, Unit 5: 5.12; Perrow, 1999), although that should not prohibit any useful analysis. Thus, if learning from hindsight is key to risk management, an incomplete picture of hindsight will further impact on mitigation of disasters, let alone prevention.

There are also specific barriers to isomorphic learning which also counter the assumption that organizations always seek to implement measures to mitigate/prevent disasters. In his landmark thesis based on research into the Kings Cross disaster, Brian Toft found reluctance among employees to acknowledge shortcomings and argues that there exists a culture of denial of failure within organizations. If they cannot learn from their own mistakes, they will not learn from mistakes of others and as a result preventative/mitigation measures may not be implemented. Toft cites that one reason for this may be a culture of blame and secrecy in reaction to the threat of litigation against the organization/individuals (1992, cited in Module 1, Unit 6: 6.18). Simon Bennett (2001)

Related Documents