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Technological Catastrophe. Natural disasters have received more attention from researchers studying hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. The research has mostly been conducted by sociologists.

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Technological Catastrophe

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Technological Catastrophe

  • Natural disasters have received more attention from researchers studying hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. The research has mostly been conducted by sociologists

The great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed most of the city and left 250,00 people homeless.


Principal Causes of Technological Catastrophes

  • Human factor errors (Chernobyl)

  • Inadequate training of staff (Three-mile Island)

  • Technological design factors (Ford Pinto)

  • Organizational systems factors (asbestos)

  • Socio-cultural factors (Bhopal)

  • Technological terrorism (Tylenol poisoning)

From Manion, M. & Evan, W.M. (2002)


Examples of Technological Catastrophes

  • Asbestos-related illnesses

  • Three-Mile Island Nuclear Plant/Chernobyl

  • Bhopal poison gas release

  • DC-10 crashes

  • Ford Pinto fires

  • Laval highway bridge collapse

  • Minimata Bay mercury poisoning

  • Love Canal poisoning


Death of a spouse (100)

Divorce (73)

Marital separation (65)

Jail term (63)

Death of a close family member (63)

Personal injury/illness (53)

Marriage (50)

Fired from job (47)

Pregnancy (40)

Sex difficulties (39)

Gain of a new family member (39)

Change in financial status (38)

Vacation (13)

Minor violations of law (11)

Holmes & Rahe Life Stress Scale


Characteristics of Technological Catastrophes

  • Suddenness

  • Power

  • Predictability

  • Low point

  • Perceptions of control altered

  • Extent of effects unclear

  • Disquieting publicity

  • Loss of trust in governmental officials

  • Feelings of anger/betrayal by authorities

  • Visible damage


Risk Perception:Heuristics/Shortcuts/General Inferential Rules

  • Certainty: denial of uncertainty

  • Availability: an event is more probable if it can be recalled

  • Worst case: judgement based upon worst possible outcome


Hans Selye1907-1982

  • Selye was the pioneer in stress theory.

  • Stress was defined as the nonspecific response of the body to any demands made upon it.


General Adaptation Syndrome: Hans Selye

  • Alarm reaction (flight or fight)

  • Resistance (adaptation—coping responses, but at a cost to the individual

  • Exhaustion (may lead to death if stress is prolonged)


Lazarus Stress Model

  • Stress involves the individual’s appraising the personal meaning and significance of the stressor.

  • Cognitive appraisal is an active psychological process in which the individual judges the elements of a situation in relation to the individual’s existing patterns of ideas and expectations.

  • Stress occurs when the individual perceives the environmental condition as threatening a level of harm that will challenge or exceed the individual’s coping abilities.

  • An objectively neutral situation that is perceived as threatening will cause stress

Richard Lazarus


Sources and Appraisal of Stress

  • Attitudes

  • Heuristics


Heuristics

  • People have limits in their ability to process information and they use shortcuts (heuristics) to derive meaning from their surroundings.

  • Heuristics are general inferential rules that can be used to attach meaning to information or to simplify difficult cognitive tasks.


Prevention Strategies

  • Sensitizing scientists/engineers to the potential for disaster in their projects.

  • Organizations need to develop a code of conduct

  • Governmental regulatory agencies need to have up-to-date information on the emerging technologies

  • Legislative & legal systems need to become much more proactive when it comes to protecting the enviroment

  • Engineering schools need to teach ethics and sensitize their students to possible dilemmas they may face

  • Community activism should increase


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