Episode 11 – Kegworth and Checklists

This episode examines British Midlands Flight BD92 (Kegworth). In the Kegworth accident, the Boeing 737 experienced an engine failure, but the pilots shut down the wrong engine. As usual, it’s a bit more complicated than it first sounds.

“Tick Box” often used as a criticism of safety, but this may be a bit unfair. Checklists have an important role to play in preventing accidents, and arguably could have made a difference for Kegworth. As they are adopted into other domains, we should consider what we hope to get out of using checklists, and how they can be used wisely.

In this episode I also try translating the idea that there are seven basic plots from literature to the world of accidents. I’ve provided the first four universal accident narratives, but help from listeners is needed to finish the list.

The next episode will be about medical devices. I’m looking for someone with expertise in the domain to be interviewed or to contribute a segment, so let me know if that sounds like you.

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Episode 10 – The Value of a Statistical Life

Value of a Statistical Life, the Ford Pinto, and Safety Cases.

In this episode I examine the ethics and practicalities of placing a value on human life. I discuss how
the value of a human life is determined, how it is used, and how it can be misused. We then delve into probably the most
controversial example of safety versus cost trade-off, the Ford Pinto in the case of Grimshaw v Ford Motor Company, 1978.

This episode also features an interview with George Despotou from the University of York. George and I talk about his recent
article, a “First Contact with Safety Cases”.

Episode 10 transcript is here.

References

  1. First Contact with Safety Cases
  2. The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case [pdf]
  3. 500 Life Saving Interventions and their Cost Effectiveness [pdf]

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Episode 9 – Safety at the Movies

This episode examines the Apollo 13 accident, and ways in which movies such as Die Hard influence safety in real life. We also take a skeptical look at “Risk Homeostasis”.

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Episode 8 – Buncefield

DisasterCast Episode 8: Buncefield, Disaster Incubation Theory, and Practical Hazard Management
This episode looks at the Buncefield Incident of 2005, and one of the big socio-technical models for
safety, Disaster Incubation Theory.

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Episode 7 – USS Thresher

DisasterCast Episode 7 – USS Thresher, Hazard Identification, and Star Wars
In this episode we discuss the worst ever submarine disaster, the loss of the USS Thresher. We also talk
about the importance and difficulty of hazard identification, and attempt an accident analysis of the Death Star.

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Episode 5 – Fire!

DisasterCast Episode 5, featuring Claire Benson (@pyroclaire).
Episode covers the 1987 Kings Cross Underground fire, research into fire prevention, and
myths about fire. There’s even a bit of Spontaneous Human Combustion.

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Episode 4 – Chernobyl and Safety Culture

DisasterCast Episode 4 – Chernobyl, Safety Culture, and Zero Harm. Was Chernobyl a result of
technical failings, or Soviet Safety Culture? What is Safety Culture, anyway? And does a
policy of “Zero Harm” enhance or hurt safety culture?

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Episode 3 – Risk Acceptance and Coal Mine Disasters

DisasterCast Episode 3 – Coal mine disasters, risk acceptance, and personal electronic devices on aircraft.

When did system safety engineering begin? Why do different risks get regulated differently? Do I really need to
switch off all electronic devices? Will they really interfere with navigation?

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Episode 2 – Blame the Operator

DisasterCast Episode 2 – Blame the Operator
Performance shaping factors, BA 5390, Replacing humans.

When an accident happens, humans are always at the heart of the story. The first characters we see are the victims – broken bodies, distraught families, dazed survivors. As the narrative grows, we hear about the heroes – the rescue workers running toward the danger, the pilot who performed a miracle, the quick thinking console operator who stopped things being much worse. But you can’t make a good story just with damsels in distress and knights in shining armour. We want to know why disaster struck, and too often, we confuse finding an explanation, with finding someone to blame.

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