Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Blame culture hinders safety development


Jeffrey Smith makes a plea for more information about the causes of site deaths in order to guide changes in design and site methods (NCE 23 November).

Unfortunately the nature of the law and the processes of its enforcement agencies militate against the production of such information. The response to any significant accident is not 'let's find out what went wrong so that we may try to prevent it from happening again' but 'let's identify the culprits so that they may be punished'.

Everybody involved therefore, naturally fearful for their reputations, careers, and even liberty, tends to keep very quiet. When the matter eventually reaches the courts nobody is very much interested in the truth as such. Even inquiries are increasingly adversarial rather than inquisitorial.

It is understandable that society should wish to find somebody to blame for any accident, particularly where people have died or been badly injured. But this aim is largely incompatible with that of learning useful lessons from our mistakes. We cannot have it both ways.

John Horsler (M), 65 Beauval Road, London SE22 8UH

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.