Accident management

Accident management
See also

Accident management means actions taken in order to mitigate adverse effects of an accident. This is a broad term, encompassing different types of accidents. The approach to accident management varies between companies and depends on the nature of business activities the company is involved in. However, the primary objective of accident management policies is to "ensure safety or reduce risk to the population (Bruegge, B., 1994, p. 1). Although accident management can be applied to various spheres of human activity, the concept of accident management is especially pronounced in reference to numerous sectors of industry and mass events.

Systems developed by companies are becoming more resilient nowadays. The definition of resilience resembles the one of accident management, being described as "an ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a shock or stress in a timely and efficient manner" (Mitchell, T., 2012, p. 2).

In order to manage accidents effectively, companies need to develop an information system that would allow them to react quickly in case of an emergency (Bruegge, B., 1994, p. 1). According to Bruegge, such a system should consist of two subsystems (1994, p. 1):

  • "reference information", which is relatively stable and remains unchanged in the situation of an accident
  • "decision support information", which constitutes a dynamic part of an information system.

Rapid development of technology has supported accident management. Modern risk management "involves interactions between multiple human operators, procedures and technical systems" (Blom, H., 2003, p. 3). In order to mitigate negative effects of accidents, there is a need for establishing procedures that would clearly specify the steps that should be taken once the emergency situation occurs. This is crucial especially in reference to accidents and breakdowns whose consequences can affect a large number of individuals, as it was e.g. in case of a disaster that happened in a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986.

Key steps in accident management

Lathrop lists the steps that should be taken in the course of accident management (1981, pp. 6-7):

  • recognition and identification - accidents do not always happen suddenly, there might be some initial events or conditions that trigger them. Therefore, it is important to control and monitor high-risk activities. Early detection and identification of the problem is crucial as it may help to avoid its further escalation
  • determining the scale of the accident
  • informing all the parties affected by the accident
  • selecting the counter steps - it refers to the activities that should be undertaken in order to stop further escalation of the problem
  • applying countermeasures
  • taking steps to restore the conditions existing before the accident or improving these conditions to avoid similar accidents in the future
  • drawing conclusions and translating them into safety procedures that should be followed in an organisation.

Effective accident management may be hindered if the information about the accident is inaccurate or insufficient (Tang, O., 2011, p. 3). This is especially important for the step involving the selection of proper countermeasures. If the management is misinformed about the situation, they might decide on the implementation of the procedures that fail to mitigate the consequences of an accident and, as a consequence, lead to its further escalation.

References

Author: Małgorzata Goryl