Cover image for Normal accidents : living with high-risk technologies : with a new afterword and a postscript on the Y2K problem
Normal accidents : living with high-risk technologies : with a new afterword and a postscript on the Y2K problem
Perrow, Charles.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 451 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published: New York : Basic Books, 1984.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD7262 .P55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 to this edition Perrow reviews the extensive work on the major accidents of the last fifteen years, including Bhopal, Chernobyl, and the Challenger disaster. The new postscript probes what the author considers to be the "quintessential 'Normal Accident'" of our time: the Y2K computer problem.

Author Notes

Charles Perrow is Professor of Sociology at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Abnormal Blessingsp. vii
Introductionp. 3
1. Normal Accident at Three Mile Islandp. 15
2. Nuclear Power as a High-Risk System: Why We Have Not Had More TMIs--But Will Soonp. 32
3. Complexity, Coupling, and Catastrophep. 62
4. Petrochemical Plantsp. 101
5. Aircraft and Airwaysp. 123
6. Marine Accidentsp. 170
7. Earthbound Systems: Dams, Quakes, Mines, and Lakesp. 232
8. Exotics: Space, Weapons, and DNAp. 256
9. Living with High-Risk Systemsp. 304
Afterwordp. 353
Postscript: The Y2K Problemp. 388
List of Acronymsp. 413
Notesp. 415
Bibliographyp. 426
Indexp. 441