chapter  1
21 Pages

The 1900s and Onward

Beginnings
WithDrew Rae, Sidney Dekker

Chapter 1 introduces safety science as the interdisciplinary study of accidents and accident prevention. It contains theories inspired by engineering, physical sciences, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and more. The chapter explains how most of the theories that guide current safety practices were developed during the 20th century. The same principles of scientific experimentation, theorizing and logical reasoning—which had increasingly shown their value during the 18th and 19th centuries—could be brought to bear on the problem of safety.This accompanied a shift toward believing that the causes of accidents could be scientifically understood, and that there was a moral responsibility to engineer or organize preventative measures. It laid the basis for the emergence of new institutions for the creation and maintenance of safety rules and practice, including regulators, inspectorates, and investigative bodies which directly represented the government. Other institutions represented the common interests of employers or workers (standards bodies, professional associations), and still others combined the two, as in the case of government-mandated private insurance schemes. The chapter also describes how the first political concern for safety grew from the mines, factories, railroads, and steamships of the Industrial Revolution. The interplay between concerned citizens and scientists, government regulators, and insurers would continue to drive the creation of safety theories and their practical applications into the 20thand 21st centuries.