Heinrich Domino Theory

Herbert William Heinrich created a theory in 1931 known as Heinrich's Domino Theory. It is known as the "Domino Theory of Accident Causation" or "Heinrich's Domino Theory." The theory has the basic assumption that accidents and injuries are often the result of a chain of events and that preventing one event in the chain can prevent an accident from occurring.

A key concept in Heinrich's Domino theory is that accidents can be illustrated as a chain of dominoes, where each "domino" in the chain is a contributing factor to the accident. Heinrich classifies these causal factors into four main categories:

  1. Human Fault: These are human actions or behaviors that contribute to the occurrence of an accident. Examples include inattention, violation of rules, and lack of training.
  2. Unsafe Conditions: Poor conditions in the work environment or accident scene can cause an accident. This could include faulty machinery, unsafe tools, or inadequate environmental conditions.
  3. Accident Incidents: Factors directly involved in the accident itself, such as collisions, falls, or exposure to hazardous materials.
  4. Injury Accident: In the final stage of the domino chain, there is an accident that results in physical or material injury. Heinrich says that only about 1 in 29 accidents results in a serious or fatal injury, while the rest result in only property damage or minor incidents.

The essence of Heinrich's Domino theory is that by identifying and addressing the causal factors in this chain, we can prevent serious accidents. This theory has been the basis for many approaches in workplace safety management, including the more modern risk-based prevention approach.

However, it is important to note that this theory has been criticized and has evolved since it was first introduced. Some critics say that the theory is too simplistic and does not always represent complex accidents. Therefore, in practice, organizations often combine Heinrich's approach with other more modern and holistic approaches to safety management.

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