Systems thinking, the Swiss Cheese Model and accident analysis: a comparative systemic analysis of the Grayrigg train derailment using the ATSB, AcciMap and STAMP models
journal contributionposted on 2013-12-18, 09:40 authored by Peter Underwood, Patrick WatersonPatrick Waterson
The Swiss Cheese Model (SCM) is the most popular accident causation model and is widely used throughout various industries. A debate exists in the research literature over whether the SCM remains a viable tool for accident analysis. Critics of the model suggest that it provides a sequential, oversimplified view of accidents. Conversely, proponents suggest that it embodies the concepts of systems theory, as per the contemporary systemic analysis techniques. The aim of this paper was to consider whether the SCM can provide a systems thinking approach and remain a viable option for accident analysis. To achieve this, the train derailment at Grayrigg was analysed with an SCM-based model (the ATSB accident investigation model) and two systemic accident analysis methods (AcciMap and STAMP). The analysis outputs and usage of the techniques were compared. The findings of the study showed that each model applied the systems thinking approach. However, the ATSB model and AcciMap graphically presented their findings in a more succinct manner, whereas STAMP more clearly embodied the concepts of systems theory. The study suggests that, whilst the selection of an analysis method is subject to trade-offs that practitioners and researchers must make, the SCM remains a viable model for accident analysis.