Inderscience Publishers

The role of complexity in accident investigation practice

This paper explores accident investigation by using a system theoretical view to study the role of complexity in accident investigation practices within the aviation industry. In recent years, the aviation transport system has become increasingly complex due to increased air traffic, deregulation, globalisation of markets and the introduction of supranational rules and regulations. Furthermore, the aviation transport industry has a long tradition of performing advanced accident investigations. A qualitative case study methodology using interviews and accident reports as the main data collection methods has been applied to study the investigation practice of the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN). Results show that differentiation characterises the AIBN's investigation philosophy and that their investigation practices and accident reports include a variety of perspectives and methods. Complexity can, to a certain extent, be traced in the AIBN's investigation practice through accident models such as the human-technology-organisation framework and an increased awareness of technological complexity. Nevertheless, complexity in the forms of organisational interfaces, interdependencies between actors, and historical and contextual factors are not identified as central aspects of the AIBN's investigation philosophy and/or investigation practice.

Keywords: accident investigation, complexity, accident models, system theory, civil aviation transport, change, emergency management, Norway

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