This New York Times story from May reminded me of some people’s distaste for calling laboratory incidents “accidents”: It’s No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead
Roadway fatalities are soaring at a rate not seen in 50 years, resulting from crashes, collisions and other incidents caused by drivers.
Just don’t call them accidents anymore.
That is the position of a growing number of safety advocates, including grass-roots groups, federal officials and state and local leaders across the country. They are campaigning to change a 100-year-old mentality that they say trivializes the single most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.
“When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like, ‘God made it happen,’ ” Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at a driver safety conference this month at the Harvard School of Public Health. …
Changing semantics is meant to shake people, particularly policy makers, out of the implicit nobody’s-fault attitude that the word “accident” conveys, they said.
The semantics of accident came up around the Honolulu Fire Department investigation report about the University of Hawaii explosion. The fire department called the event an “accident” because the explosion wasn’t set off intentionally.
But the University of Hawaii lab was working with a hazardous mixture of gases using inappropriate equipment. The information in the fire department report indicates that the explosion was foreseeable and preventable. Is it therefore appropriate to call the explosion an accident? Does anyone know of a lab incident that could truly be called accidental in that that chemicals involved behaved contrary to their known properties?