Normal Accidents and Implementation

Essay by crystalsappCollege, UndergraduateB+, April 2010

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Dr. Conroy

Public Administration

Normal Accidents and Implementation

Crystal Spratt



The book Normal Accidents was written to explain to people the dangers of new technology. His theory is that most systems today are built so complex, they are actually causing more problems in production and safety than helping with them. He goes on to explain loose and tight coupling and complex and linear interactions. He also goes on to say that even though there can be operator errors; in most cases the reason the operator has an error is because the system fails first.

The first example that Perrow uses is Three Mile Island (TMI). Three Mile Island was a nuclear power plant that in 1979 experienced what he calls a "normal accident". The accident started in the cooling systems and ended by having a partial nuclear meltdown. The reason for this meltdown was the complexity of the system.

Perrow tells us that when you are dealing with systems like nuclear power plants it can be nearly impossible to figure out where the problem originates from. The reason for this complexity is that these systems are so tightly coupled, which means that each part is interlinked to another, that neither the operators nor the mechanics know how to find and stop the problem.

In Perrow's next chapter he discusses why he believes eventually there will be more serious accidents such as the one at TMI. His reasoning is that "we have not given the nuclear power system a reasonable amount of time to disclose its potential" (Normal Accidents, p. 33). According to the nuclear industry there are more than hundreds of years of experience, but according to Perrow there is less than twenty. The explanation for these different takes how many years of experience is because the nuclear...