Technological and organizational roots of industrial crises: Lessons from Exxon Valdez and Bhopal

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Abstract

Industrial crises or disasters are usually blamed on the failure of technology or operator error. This article provides a deeper examination of the causes of industrial crises. Crises are rooted in systemic human, organizational, and technological contradictions. These contradictions give rise to vicious circles of behavior that lead to cumulation of risk and hazard within a system. Contradictory pressures in the technological core lead to simultaneous and interacting failures that trigger accidents. The preconditions for these accidents, and the escalation of accident effects, is caused by human and organizational contradictions in the context in which the technology is located. Conflicting individual perceptions of risks, leads managers to make risky decisions. These contradictions and failures are illustrated using data from the Bhopal and Exxon Valdez crises. Implications for managing hazardous systems are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-253
Number of pages17
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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