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Journal Articles Safety Science Year : 2008

Disasters and organisations : from lessons learnt to theorising


The aim of this paper is to discuss the organisational dimension in accident investigations and to suggest a way of organising the various approaches according to their purposes, underlying modelling rationale and models. Indeed, several methods and models exist today for treating the organisational dimension of accidents. In this paper, they have been classified in three main types: research with theorising purposes, commissions set up for investigating major accidents and structured root cause analysis methods. The modelling and theorising rationales of these various approaches are introduced and discussed. They are classified according to their depth as well as their position in reference with their more normative or descriptive nature, and with a "model that should fit the data" principle extracted from the human and social science theorising and interpreting process. A suggested graphical classification helps locating these current modelling techniques and models. It serves the purpose of identifying what are the limits and advantages of each, for various type of actors (e.g. safety managers, inspector of hazardous installations, professional investigators, researchers). A discussion then insists on the need for being very sensitive to the gap between the more normative (or prescriptive) and the more descriptive perspectives in the process of learning from the organisational side of accidents.

Dates and versions

ineris-00963101 , version 1 (21-03-2014)



Jean-Christophe Le Coze. Disasters and organisations : from lessons learnt to theorising. Safety Science, 2008, 46 (1), pp.132-149. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2006.12.001⟩. ⟨ineris-00963101⟩


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