Organizational factors and nuclear power plant safety

image: Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has responsibility for ensuring the safe operations of the nuclear power reactors in the United States, of which there are approximately 100. There are significant reasons to doubt whether its regulatory regime is up to the task. Part of the challenge is the technical issue of …

China’s food-safety governance system

Food safety is a very high-level concern for ordinary consumers. This is true because the food we eat can poison us or ruin our health, and yet consumers have little ability to evaluate the safety of the foods available in the marketplace. Therefore government regulation of food safety appears to be mandatory in any complex …

Why do regulatory organizations fail?

Why is Charles Perrow a pessimist about government regulation? Perrow is a leading researcher in the sociology of organizations, and he is a singular expert on accidents and failures. Several of his books are classics in their field -- Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and …

Testing the NRC

Serious nuclear accidents are rare but potentially devastating to people, land, and agriculture. (It appears that minor to moderate nuclear accidents are not nearly so rare, as James Mahaffey shows in Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima.) Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are disasters that have …

Auditing FEMA

Crucial to improving an organization's performance is being able to obtain honest and detailed assessments of its functioning, in normal times and in emergencies. FEMA has had a troubled reputation for faulty performance since the Katrina disaster in 2005, and its performance in response to Hurricane Maria in Louisiana and Puerto Rico was also criticized …

Regulatory failure and the 737 MAX disasters

The recent crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft raise questions about the safety certification process through which this modified airframe was certified for use by the FAA. Recent accounts of the design and manufacture of the aircraft demonstrate an enormous pressure for speed and great pressure to reduce costs. Attention has focused on a software …

The Morandi Bridge collapse and regulatory capture

Lower image: Eugenio Ceroni and Luca Cozzi, Ponte Morandi - Autopsia di una strage A recurring topic in Understanding Society is the question of the organizational causes that lie in the background of major accidents and technological disasters. One such disaster is the catastrophic collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa in August, 2018, which …

Regulatory failure

When we think of the issues of health and safety that exist in a modern complex economy, it is impossible to imagine that these social goods will be produced in sufficient quantity and quality by market forces alone. Safety and health hazards are typically regarded as "externalities" by private companies -- if they can be …

Regulatory thrombosis

Charles Perrow is a leading researcher on the sociology of organizations, and he is a singular expert on accidents and system failures. Several of his books are classics in their field -- Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters, Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of …

Patient safety — Canada and France

Patient safety is a key issue in managing and assessing a regional or national health system. There are very sizable variations in patient safety statistics across hospitals, with significantly higher rates of infection and mortality in some institutions than others. Why is this? And what can be done in order to improve the safety performance …

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