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The Blame Machine: Why Human Error Causes Accidents

January 2006

This book will help all those aiming to raise standards of health and safety in the workplace.

The Blame Machine describes how disasters and serious accidents result from recurring, but potentially avoidable, human errors. It shows how such errors are preventable because they result from defective systems within a company. From real incidents, you will be able to identify common causes of human error and typical system deficiencies that have led to these errors. On a larger scale, you will be able to see where, in the organisational or management systems, failure occurred so that you can avoid them.

The book also describes the existence of a 'blame culture' in many organisations, which focuses on individual human error whilst ignoring the system failures that caused it. The book shows how this 'blame culture' has, in the case of a number of past accidents, dominated the accident enquiry process hampering a proper investigation of the underlying causes.

Suggestions are made about how progress can be made to develop a more open culture in organisations, both through better understanding of human error by managers and through increased public awareness of the issues. The book brings together documentary evidence from recent major incidents from all around the world and within the Rail, Water, Aviation, Shipping, Chemical and Nuclear industries.

Part 1 - Understanding Human Error

Part 2 - Accident Case Studies

Appendix: Train protection systems.

Readership: Students on occupational psychology, occupational health and safety, insurance and risk management courses, especially those on BSc and MSc Occupational Health and Safety courses. Safety practitioners in manufacturing and transportation industries; managers; accident investigators and safety regulators; liability surveyors.

The Blame Machine: why human error causes accidents, by R.B. Whittingham | Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann | ISBN: 0-7506-5510-0 | Book/Paperback | 288 pages |

Barry Whittingham has worked as a senior engineer, design engineer and consultant for the chemical, nuclear, offshore oil and gas, railway and aviation sectors. He developed a career as a safety consultant specializing in the human factors aspects of accident causation. He is a member of the Human Factors in Reliability Group, and a Fellow of the Safety and Reliability Society.