Inj Prev 17:143 doi:10.1136/ip.2011.031658
  • PostScript
  • Book review

Accident prone: a history of technology, psychology, and misfits of the machine age

Edited by John C Burnham, Published by University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, June 2009, pp 336, Cloth. US$40.00; ISBN-13 9780226081175.
  1. David Hemenway
  1. Correspondence to David Hemenway, Director, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA; hemenway{at}

Historian John C Burnham has written a fascinating book on the origins, rise, and fall of the concept of accident proneness in the United States and elsewhere. From the 1920s to the 1960s, addressing the injury prone individual was a major focus of injury prevention efforts.

It had always been commonly acknowledged that some people were more likely to get into accidents than others. Further, statistics showed that accidents were not randomly distributed among the population. Safety experts also came to believe that ‘it has been demonstrated by research that more than 75% of all accidents are caused by the human factor’ (p. 100). The National Safety Council President went even further, stating that …

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