Normal risk: Technology, sense making, and environmental disasters

  • Gephart R
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Normal Accidents by Charles Perrow (1984) demonstrates how complex, tightly coupled technological systems produce accidents. The theory of normal accidents argues that organizations can create technological systems that produce ecosystems disasters and impacts. Organizations cannot prevent or mitigate these disasters and impacts once the technological system is operational (Perrow, 1997). The current article discusses the important insights that Normal Accidents provides into risk sense making and ecosystems accidents. Research that extends Perrow’s (1984) work is reviewed to provide insights into how societies legitimate high-risk technologies that are prone to failure and to environmental disaster. The article concludes by encouraging researchers to follow Perrow’s (1994, p. 10) call to examine "systems that have not had accidents" from a critical perspective.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Environmental disasters
  • Legitimation
  • Normal accidents
  • Risk
  • Sense making

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  • Robert P. Gephart

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