Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

57. A Re-examination of the Accident Proneness Concept*

Alexander Mintz and Milton L. Blum

IT IS GENERALLY accepted that certain individuals consistently have many accidents while others do not. This is commonly known as the principle of accident proneness. A critical examination of the data reported in the literature points to the desirability of reconsidering the significance attached to the principle of accident proneness.

This article has two objectives: (1) To indicate that one of the methods to substantiate the principle of accident proneness is unsound and to show that its use has led in some instances to exaggerated views of differences in accident proneness; and (2) To propose a method whereby quantitative estimates of differences in accident liability1 may be obtained and to point out the conditions when it may be used.

The statistical evidence for the principle of accident proneness was presented by Greenwood and Woods2 in 1919. These authors compared the distribution of accidents in a given population with a simple chance distribution for the same number of accidents in a population of the same size. Evidence of differences in accident proneness was obtained: It was discovered that more people had no accidents than might have been expected "by chance." Conversely, it was discovered that more people had many accidents than would have been expected in accordance with a simple chance distribution. In other words, Greenwood and Woods demonstrated that the obtained distributions of accidents differed significantly from chance expectancy. Furthermore, they showed that most of their distributions agreed with theoretically computed distributions based on the assumption that people differed from each other in their likelihood to have accidents.

Newbold3 further investigated this problem and pointed out that the

____________________
*
From Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 33, No. 3, 1949, pp. 195-211.
1
In the subsequent discussions we shall use the expression "accident proneness" in referring to personal characteristics of people contributing to the likelihood of their having accidents. The expression "accident liability" will refer to both personal characteristics and stable environmental conditions contributing to accidents records.
2
M. Greenwood and H. M. Woods, "The Incidence of Industrial Accidents upon Individuals with Specific Reference to Multiple Accidents" ( London: Industrial Fatigue Research Board, Report 4, 1919).
3
E. M. Newbold, "A Contribution to the Study of the Human Factor in the Causation of Accidents" ( London: Industrial Fatigue Research Board, Report 34, 1926).

-543-

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