Tripod is the ‘good intentions' model of incident causation. It is a scientifically backed model which has helped revolutionise how we think about incidents and has directly and indirectly led to the development of commonly used tools in industry, including the Bow Tie methodology and Tripod Beta. It is the basis of the Swiss cheese model, and it even allows you to find the causes of accidents before they happen.
At its heart, Tripod is about understanding people’s good intentions. People do not come to work to have or to cause an accident. They come to work to do a good job and go home safely. Most accidents are initiated by people with good intentions. However, too often, organisational learning is hampered by a belief that ‘bad intentions’ cause accidents, therefore are no lessons for the organisation, its leaders, and its processes and systems. This is rarely the correct answer! Most incidents have systemic causes.
Fig: The Tripod model of incident causation
Tripod is extremely powerful. It helps us move beyond ‘bad intention’ models. As soon as you accept that the people involved in accidents have good intentions, and usually believe they are doing the right thing, you can ask why did that person act in a way that led to the incident?
- What was it about the person, the environment, or the job that made that action more likely at that time on that day?
- What were the circumstances?
- How did the organisation contribute to create (or not control) those circumstances?
Borne out of research commissioned by Shell International and carried out at the Universiteit Leiden and the University of Manchester during the 1980s and 1990s, Tripod is a theory for understanding incidents and accidents. It was developed to explain how and why incidents happen, and allow the root organisational causes and deficiencies to be uncovered and addressed.
About the Tripod Foundation
The Foundation's objectives are to:
- 1. Develop and maintain the Tripod Intellectual Property
- 2. Acquire, develop and maintain methods to promote safety
- 3. Provide funds for Tripod research
- 4. Provide funds for research into safety management
- 5. Make available knowledge, experience and results of research to Tripod users, and
- 6. Liaise with other organisations worldwide with similar objectives
1. Defining good practice:
We publish the official Tripod Beta methodology for accidents and incident investigation
We co-created the free publication Learning from incidents, accidents and events, in collaboration with the Energy Institute
We developed the Investigation insights toolkit to help engage leaders in investigation and learning
2. Sharing knowledge