Frank Bird’s Domino Theory

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Frank Bird Domino Theory
Frank Bird Domino Theory

Frank Bird’s Domino Theory

Heinrich’s theory of domino sequence is updated by Frank Bird Jr. To explain the circumstances that lead to losses (injury) in the chronological order of five dominoes:

These are shown in Figure and explained below.

Frank Bird Domino Theory

  1. Lack of – Management.
  2. Basic causes – Origins.
  3. Immediate causes – Symptoms.
  4. Accident – Contact and
  5. Injury / damage – Loss.

Lack of control is the first domino and refers the fourth function of the management (planning, organising, directing, controlling and coordinating, job analysis, personal communication, selection and training, ‘standards’ in each work activity identified measuring performance by standards and correcting performance by improving the existing programmes. This first domino may fall due to inadequate standards, programmes and follow up.




Basic Causes (origins) are: Frank Bird’s Domino Theory

  1. Personal factors – Lack of knowledge or skill, improper motivation and physical or mental problems.
  2. Job factor – Inadequate work standards, design, maintenance, purchasing standards, abnormal usage etc. These basic causes are origin of substandard acts and conditions and failure to identify them permits the second domino to fall, which initiates the possibility of further chain reaction.

Immediate causes are only symptoms of the underlying problem. They are substandard practices or conditions (know as unsafe acts and unsafe conditions) that could cause the fourth domino to fall. These causes should be identified, classified and removed by appropriate measures.

Accident or incident is the result of unsafe acts or/and unsafe conditions. This point is the contact stage. Some counter measures employed are deflection, dilution, reinforcement, surface modification, segregation, barricading, protection, absorption, shielding etc.




Injury includes traumatic injury, diseases and adverse mental neurological or systemic effects resulting from workplace exposures. ‘Damage’ includes all types of property damage including fire. The severity of losses involving physical harm and property damage can be minimised by prompt reparative action salvage in the case of property damage and fire control devices and trained personnel.

Frank E Bird, in 1969, analysed 1753498 accidents reported by 279 companies of America. His conclusion is shown in below figure.

Frank E Bird in 1969

Inference of this 1-10-30-600 ratio is that 630 no-injury accidents, with 10 minor and 1 major (serious) injury accidents, provide a much larger basis for many opportunities to prevent any injury accident. Out of total events, only 10 may result in minor injuries and only 1 in major injury. But this can happen at any time not necessary at the end.

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