Three Dangers of Redundancy

Normal Accident Theory articulates three dangers of redundancy, summarized by Scott Sagan as follows.

  • Redundancy increases complexity, generating “common-mode” errors. Example: Fermi Reactor safety device added at last minute breaks off and blocks coolant pipe.
  • Redundancy may lead to decreased sense of responsibility among workers. Example: Diffusion of responsibility among AWACS operators led to no one passing needed information to F-15 pilot. See Bystander Effect
  • Redundancy may lead to increased production pressures due to perceived safety. Example: Injuries increase when helmets added to a sport.

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Examples and breakdown from “Learning from Normal Accidents” (pdf)

Normal Accident Theory see accidents as “normal” and has related insights.

A related issue is Alarm Fatigue

Source: Three Dangers of Redundancy

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