Princeton University Press
September 27, 1999
Normal Accidents analyzes the social side of technological risk. Charles Perrow argues that the conventional engineering approach to ensuring safety – building in more warnings and safeguards – fails because systems complexity makes failures inevitable. He asserts that typical precautions, by adding to complexity, may help create new categories of accidents. (At Chernobyl, tests of a new safety system helped produce the meltdown and subsequent fire.) By recognizing two dimensions of risk – complex versus linear interactions, and tight versus loose coupling – this book provides a powerful framework for analyzing risks and the organizations that insist we run them.
The first edition fulfilled one reviewer’s prediction that it “may mark the beginning of accident research.” In the new afterword and postscript to this edition the author reviews the extensive work on the major accidents of the last fifteen years, and the valuable extensions and refinements of his theory.
Charles Perrow is Professor of Sociology at Yale University. His other books include The Radical Attack on Business, Organizational Analysis: A Sociological View, Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay, and The AIDS Disaster: The Future of Organizations in New York and the Nation.