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Accident Causation Models Report


Determining the causes of specific events and phenomena is especially important in the environment of health and medicine. By tracking down the stages of a particular disorder development, a healthcare expert is likely to diagnose the issue in a manner as precise and efficient as possible. Furthermore, the issue can be located and addressed at the earliest stages of its development. For these purposes, a combination of the Swiss Cheese Theory and Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Framework must be incorporated into the general strategy.

Although the theories seemingly have very little in common, they, in fact, share quite a range of details, starting with their purpose, and ending with the identification of the nature of causes and their influence on the following events. One might argue that the Swiss Cheese Theory and Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Framework cannot be viewed as separate due to the identified similarities. However, while complementing each other successfully, the approaches mentioned above, nevertheless, may exist on their own, serving as the tools for locating the cause-and-effect chain in the context of an organization.


The concept of an accident has a long history and it is inextricably linked to the development of the human society. Any accident is the outcome of successive happenings in which a failure leading to the harmful consequences has occurred. The human intervention can prevent trauma or health-threatening situations; nevertheless, there exists a feasible possibility of an occurrence that would result in more critical events than those happening previously. It is crucial to review and analyse different models of accident causation to understand the nature of accidents and their preconditions. In this report, the Reason’s Swiss Cheese Model is compared to the Gordon’s Multiple Causation Theory (Perrow, 2011).

Reason’s Swiss Cheese Model

The Swiss Cheese Model appeared in 1990 when the psychologist James Reason came up with an ingenious metaphor for a string of errors leading to disaster (Rausand, 2013). At present, this theory is well known to those skilled in the field of risk management and is widely used in aviation, healthcare, and engineering. However, the model is applicable to various situations and settings. The basis of the Reason’s concept, which is also called the cumulative effects of an action, is the selection of typical mistakes in any organization.

According to the model, there are four types of errors and an accident is the consequence of one or more of them (Rausand, 2013). These errors include the problems in management, lack of control or supervision, the preconditions for unsafe acts and unsafe acts themselves. The first three types of errors are latent and lead to accidents indirectly. Whereas the last type of errors is the active errors (Rausand, 2013). Most commonly, the Swiss model is used at the designer level to protect the organization from the active mistakes or to find out the reason of the accident.

The organization’s desire to achieve both high production and safety can result is the wrong decision-making. Apart from that, the line management deficiencies present the next level of errors when it is the goal of the management to execute the strategy (Rausand, 2013). Next level is concerned with the psychological background (for instance, stress) of the dangerous act. All that can compile with the faulty machinery or human performances. The last level is the actual malfunctioning of the defence level. In Reason’s concept, all the level errors contribute to the perspective accident; however, each of these components is dangerous only when compiled together.

Gordon’s Multiple Causation Theory

In the 1940s, John Gordon pointed out the applicability of the study of epidemiology for accident causation (Burnham, 2010). He drew attention to the fact that injuries, like any other disease, reveal patterns of distribution in time and the environment. He also noted that, as is the case of other diseases, injuries are the result of a complex interaction of various components, including the host, agent, and environment (Burnham, 2010).

Prior to Gordon’s theory, many legislators considered injuries as accidents caused by mischance and they supported the idea that it was not possible to take control over the event (Winder, 2009). After Gordon’s theory, the perception of accidents (injuries) has started to change, and the emphasis from the mischance has been displaced. According to this epidemiology model of accident causation, the injury is the result of successive events and other factors that provoke the negative occurrence.

Differences between the Swiss Cheese and Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Theories

In contrast to Gordon’s Multiple Causation theory, the Swiss Cheese model is the complex linear model (Rausand, 2013). The complex linear model asserts that accidents are the result of several unsafe successive acts and conditions as well as of the hidden danger within the organizations (Health and Safety Professionals Alliance [HaSPA], 2012). The activities, internal processes of the organization and the environment are important factors in this model (Rausand, 2013).

It claims that accidents can be prevented if the organization facilitates strong defences. Meanwhile, Gordon’s theory states that accidents are the result of random interaction between the victim, the environment and the agent (Burnham, 2010). In comparison to the Swiss model that emphasizes the successive errors, the Multiple Causation model reviews random fashion causing of accidents.

Theoretical Foundations

Considering the origin of the causation theories and frameworks, one should track the history of the subject matter down to the philosophical concepts suggested by David Hume. It would be wrong to claim that the phenomenon of the cause and the effect had been noticed before; however, it was Hume who first explored the nature of causation in order to understand what experiences form people’s understanding of the cause and the effect. It is also quite remarkable that Hume’s theoretical framework does not emphasize the significance of experience much, instead, claiming that it has very little effect on the understanding of the causation-related processes. Consequently, the theory suggested by Hume serves as the basis for the contemporary analysis of causes and effects.

The Nature of Causation and Prevention of Accidents

A detailed analysis of accident causation is crucial to the design of the strategy that will help eliminate the possibilities of its occurrence. However, the models described above do not shed much light on the origin of causation, even though they offer an extensive array of opportunities for tracking down the chain of events that led to a specific outcome. Based on the implications of the Swiss Cheese Model and the Gordon’s Multiple Causation Theory, however, it can be assumed that a multifactorial framework needs to be applied to understand the nature of the subject matter.

Consequently, the process of accidents prevention should be based on identifying the factors located at the beginning of the chain so that the process could not be commenced and that the domino effect could not be set into motion. For these purposes, spreading awareness concerning the identified risk factors must be viewed as a necessity (Li & Poon, 2013).

Similarities between the Swiss Cheese and Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Theories

First and most obvious, the fact that each theory implies introducing a particular order to the process of tracking down the reasons of a failure needs to be mentioned. Both models imply that a certain event was preceded by a string of other occurrences that led inevitably to the phenomenon observed.

Similarly, the link between the elements in the chain that both the Swiss Cheese Theory and the Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Theory have can be considered an essential point of contact between the two theoretical frameworks under analysis. At this point, however, one should mention the fact that in the Swiss Cheese Theory, it is obvious and incorporated in the framework, whereas in the Gordon Multiple Accident Causation approach, the subject matter is implied.

Nevertheless, it is the opportunity for tracking down the logical chain of events that both models share. Although the identified elements are rather few, the principal role that they play in the structures of the theoretical frameworks makes the very foundation of the approaches similar. As a result, the Gordon Multiple Accident Causation framework and the Swiss Cheese Theory share several crucial characteristics.


Although the differences between the Swiss Cheese Model and the Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Theory might be seen as quite significant, there are a plethora of elements that bind the theories together. In fact, when applying the frameworks to address a particular organizational program, one should consider combining the two frameworks so that a detailed analysis of the factors causing the phenomenon to occur could be provided. As a result, the current legal framework that addresses the issue of injuries can be improved significantly.

The simple sequential linear accident framework that the Gordon Multiple Accident Causation Theory provides can be used to research the temporal sequence of events that led to a specific injury. The use of the Swiss Cheese Model, in its turn, will create premises for the design of the risk management approach that will lead to the reduction in the chances of an accident and the potential victims suffering an injury.

Reference List

Burnham, J. (2010). Accident prone. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Health and Safety Professionals Alliance. (2012). Core body of knowledge for generalist OHS professionals. Melbourne, Australia: Safety Institute of Australia.

Li, Y. M. R., & Poon, S. W. (2013). Construction safety. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Perrow, C. (2011). Normal accidents. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rausand, M. (2013). Risk assessment. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Winder, C. (2009). The development of OHS legislation in Australia. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety, Australia and New Zealand, 25(4), 277-287.

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IvyPanda. "Accident Causation Models." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/accident-causation-models/.


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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Accident Causation Models'. 18 October.

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