Theorising Accidents

An early 20th century innovator of studying accident causation, Herbert Heinrich made significant conclusions that still impact our approaches today. His studies showed that among the 27,000 cases he reviewed, 88 percent of accidents on the job were committed or influenced by co-workers, 10 percent were caused by unsafe conditions and, 2 percent were simply unavoidable.Chart accidents


Heinrich also observed that for every accident with a major injury in the workplace, there were on average 29 accidents with minor injuries, and further, 300 accidents that caused no injury. Today we translate that to 1 lost time recordable accident, 29 first aid attended accidents, and 300 near misses. To some people, Heinrich’s work lends to the idea of a behaviour based safety theory, which leads that most accidents, (95%) are caused by unsafe acts, initiated by human factors. This philosophy reinforced management’s idea that workers were the cause of accidents.

Despite the results of his theory, Heinrich in his 1931 book, Industrial Accident Prevention, A Scientific Approach, postulated that regardless of the human interaction associated with the behaviour of accidents, management and companies should not solely focus on the workers responsibility to the accidents. Heinrich stated,

“No matter how strongly the statistical records emphasise personal faults or how imperatively the need for educational activity is shown, no safety procedure is complete or satisfactory that does not provide for the correction or elimination of physical hazards.”

Based on the day and age that Heinrich conducted his research, a lot of his findings have been discounted today by some professionals. But, it did in fact lay the foundation for much of what has worked its way into place in today’s work climate. Heinrich’s thought lent to the fact that companies and management have an obligation to establish for its employee’s a safe environment from which to start working, and the employees have a responsibility to work in a safe manner.

Domino Theory Dominos accident


Heinrich associated his concept to dominos. His Domino theory states these five factors,


  • Ancestry, negative character traits can lead to inherited or acquired traits. This leads to,
  • Fault of person, whether from inherited or acquired traits the person can or will work in an unsafe manner. This then leads to,
  • Unsafe acts, these acts are performed by the being of the person. The person by association of the first two causes, will tend to act in an unsafe manner usually in association with a mechanical or physical item. This leads to,
  • Accident, these occur from the person engaging in an activity that leads to an object falling or moving. The accident then leads to an,
  • Injury, which is the condition a person is left in upon involvement of an accident. This may lead to lost time, recordable or near miss in the workplace.

Heinrich’s theory lends two points to remedy these factors in the domino theory. First, injuries are caused by the action of the preceding factors. Second, by removing the central factor, the unsafe act, the action of the preceding factors can be prevented. This is where the company falls in to assist. The company has the ability and obligation to design, build, train and, retrain the building, equipment and employees in a manner to suitably eliminate as much of the unsafe acts as possible. The employee must work within the guidelines established, and in accordance with product warning labels. On their behalf, the company must in good faith create the safest environment for its employees.

Workplace Accidents In Ireland

Millions of accidents occur all around the world every day, and it is your employer’s duty to inform and protect you. According to the recent statistics – Ireland is above the European average of the number of accidents at work. Over 20% of personal injuries are related to building and construction industry. However, the number of accidents in shops and offices is rising.

Most common injuries are:

  • Wounds and superficial injuries;
  • Dislocations and sprains;
  • Concussion and internal injuries;
  • Bone fractures;
  • Shock;
  • Burns, scalds and frostbite.

Therefore, what do you need to know and do in case of accident or incident?


Informed – means armed

You have to know about occupational health and safety in the workplace. These programs must establish a safe and healthy work environment to protect the workers, their family members, employers, customers, visitors and other people who are engaged in work.


Who can help you?

coyle group recruiting agencyFirstly, you can make a request to the Health and Safety Authority, the national statutory body; it has overall responsibility for the administration and enforcement health and safety at work in Ireland.

Secondly, you can find some local or outsource companies and groups that can provide consulting, development of the necessary documents, plans and other types of help.


Employees Protection in Ireland

Employers in Ireland are legally responsible to prove a safe workplace and many employees have accident insurance. It is responsible for paying for your injuries and gives you a legal right for compensation for injury itself, injury-related pain and suffering, lost wages and financial expenses on medical treatment.

You have a right to demand from the employer the execution of his safety protection duties.