The big picture on accident causation: A review, synthesis and meta-analysis of AcciMap studies

Paul M. Salmon*, Adam Hulme, Guy H. Walker, Patrick Waterson, Elise Berber, Neville A. Stanton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


As AcciMap is now arguably the most popular accident analysis method in the peer-reviewed literature, there are key learnings to be taken from reviewing and synthesising published AcciMap analyses. In particular, the extent to which the network of contributory factors underpinning accidents is consistent across safety critical domains. This study reviewed and synthesised 23 AcciMap analyses published in the peer-reviewed literature. Contributory factors and relationships were extracted and thematically coded to form a single multi-domain, multi-incident AcciMap. The resulting AcciMap contains 5587 contributory factors spanning seventy-nine distinct contributory factor types. The findings reveal a set of generic contributory factors that consistently play a role in major accidents regardless of domain. Additionally, contributory factors previously only associated with sharp-end human operators are, in fact, prevalent across multiple levels of accident systems. The implications of these findings for accident theory and accident analysis and prevention activities are discussed. For future AcciMap analyses it is recommended that the contributory factor classification scheme developed in the present study is used to support the identification and classification of contributory factors. In addition, further education for analysts on the systems thinking perspective on accident causation is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104650
JournalSafety Science
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Accident analysis
  • Accident causation
  • AcciMap
  • Systems thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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