09Dec / 2016
The Domino Theory of accident causation
Domino theory was developed by William Heinrich. He explained the theory in his famous book, Industrial Accident Prevention, first published in 1931. According to Heinrich, an "accident" is one factor in a sequence that may lead to an injury. In a different allegory the factors can be visualized as a series of dominoes standing on edge, when one falls, it triggers the next to fall like a chain reaction. In order to complete the reaction a linkage is required. If a key factor (domino) is removed the linkage is broken and the accident can be prevented. Heinrich explained five key factors in sequence which may lead to an injury. According to Heinrich1. Injuries result from a completed series of factors, one of which is the accident itself
2. An accident occurs only as a result of a personal or physical/ mechanical hazard.
3. Personal and physical/ mechanical hazards exist only through the fault of careless persons or poorly designed or improperly maintained equipment.
4. Faults of persons are inherited or acquired as a result of their social environment or acquired by ancestry.
5. The environment is where and how a person was raised and educated.
Injuries result from the accident. Accidents occur only as a result of an unsafe act by person and/ or from a physical or mechanical hazard (Unsafe condition). Most accidents are from unsafe behavior of people. Unsafe behavior (Recklessness, alcoholism,etc) of a person is carried through inheritance or the social environment he is brought up or educated.It is to be noted that main three factors, social environment/inheritance, unsafe act and unsafe condition is categorised as mistakes of people. Heinrich suggested that though all five factors need to be controlled but maximum attention is to be given to the factor preceding accident, i.e. unsafe act/condition. The corrective action sequence as per Domino Theory includes three step approaches,
Engineering - Eliminate or reduce the hazard through product or process change
Education - Train workers on all aspects of safety and enlighten management on safety requirements
Enforcement - Ensure that safety rules and regulations are followed by operators and management.
Since 1931 Domino theory has been updated and modified several times with greater emphasis on management control, safety and property loss but the basic structure and the theme were quite relevant and effective as a structured approach to accident prevention.
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