Which energies make the headlines?

Since early 2010 I have been keeping a record of the cases that make headlines, at least the headlines I see.  My sources are the TV news and national newspapers in both Australia and the UK.  At present I have 100 of them so I though it would be interesting to see what they say.

I assigned an energy source to each case, or noted it as a “Business Risk”.  There were some very few cases that I did not attempt to classify in this way.

The results are shown in this table:

Chemical bonding energy


Kinetic energy


Business risk


Gravitational potential energy


Flowing mechanical energy


Thermal energy


Muscle energy


Becoming more curious, I looked at whether I could say cases arose in situations that one would say demanded operational knowledge (like an airliner crashing) or simply knowledge of a general safety nature (like a work platform falling as it is not secured).  Obviously this required some judgement, but overall it was not too hard to decide.  The results are:

Operational Risk


General Risk


Thinking back on these cases, it is only the big Consequences that make national or international news and these normally originate in large energy sources which are more likely to be under the control (in industry) or observation (eg. earthquakes, volcanoes) of highly specialised people.

These results add some colour to my earlier comments in this blog on the gulf between operational and general safety risks.

1 Comment

  1. bcorden@optusnet.com.au

    Critics of the energy damage theory claim its focus is solely objective and dehumanises safety. However, the concept emerged following a convergence of Gordon’s accident epidemiology research with Gibson’s ecopsychology principles and affordance theory and integration with the pioneering work of Haddon. The following links provide access to several interesting papers covering its evolution:









    The convergence of sciences and humanities was a controversial topic raised by CP Snow at his infamous Rede Lecture at Cambridge University in 1959. A book entitled The Two Cultures followed. The topic was recently revisited by Baroness Onora O’Neill in 2010.

    Energy damage is not purely an engineering discipline. It incorporates the evolutionary work of JJ Gibson and the principles of ecopsychology and affordance theory. This brings us back to that old chestnut and the nature v nurture debate: Is man a product of his environment or vice versa?

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