Are safety investigations pro-active?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper elaborates on the debate whether safety investigations are obsolete and should be replaced by more modern safety assessment approaches. Despite their past performance, in particular in aviation, accident investigations are criticized for their reactive nature and the lack of learning potential they provide. Although safety management systems are considered a modern method with a more prospective potential, they too are hard to judge by their quantitative performance. Instead of measuring both concepts along the lines of their output, this contribution explores the origin, context and notions behind both approaches. Both approaches prove to be adaptive to new developments and have the ability to shift their focus towards learning and cognition. In assessing their potential, accident investigations prove to cover a specific domain of application in the risk domain of low probability and major consequences, fulfilling a mission as public safety assessor. In order to make optimal use of their analytic and diagnostic potential, investigations should mobilize more complex and sophisticated scientific theories and notions, in particular of a non-linear nature. Consequently, they are neither reactive, nor proactive, but provide a specific approach to safety issues. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • John Stoop
  • Sidney Dekker
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified


  • Accident investigation, Human factor, Methodology, Safety management, system
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1422-1430
JournalSafety Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch