Process-based classification example

This is an example I recently saw, in the foyer of a university School of applied science.  Its presence there, as the first thing one saw when entering was striking.  It said to me this is our science, this exemplifies what our science is.

Here was the process classification (after Linneaus) for the fresh water crocodile, showing its Phylum, Class, Order and Family as well as its name – Crocodylus Johnstoni.


Above this was a large sign, asking “What is wrong with this scene?.

Here is more of the scene, from the front:


This crocodile is surrounded by salt water animals – a prawn and turtle in its mouth, an octopus etc.  The preserved body of the croc is in a situation (conditions and circumstances) that is foreign to it.

Imagine that at the entry to a department of risk (safety) science, there was displayed in the foyer an image of the aftermath of an energy transfer, with its classification sequence listed and, in an inappropriate situation, for example two cars having hit one another but located in the middle of an ocean.  “What is wrong with this scene?”

The idea that it is possible to classify all possible damage phenomena by the process that gave rise to them (and that it is worth doing) is very far from the minds of safety academics and practitioners alike.  This message is still ignored by academics and practitioners in the fields of Risk.

Awareness of the scientific value of a process-based understanding of the phenomenon of interest preceded Haddon’s 1973 paper.  See what Haddon said about this in the Chapter 2 article on Descriptive and process classifications

I have been drawing attention to this in lectures since 1979, and in both my 1991 book (Accident Analysis and Risk Control) and this 2015 book.  I have developed and used detailed classifications based on this principle, both for energy-based processes and for non energy-based processes.  The data from Figure 6.2 originated from the application of such classifications to a large postal services company in the mid 1980’s.

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