Abstract

The collapse of the Quebec Bridge in 1907 remains "one of the world's major structural failures," writes Eda Kranakis in "Fixing the Blame: Organizational Culture and the Quebec Bridge Collapse," one still studied by engineering students as an object lesson. But the common understanding of what caused the partially completed bridge to collapse is flawed, Kranakis argues. The Royal Commission that investigated blamed errors in judgment by two engineers, Theodore Cooper and Peter Szlapka, shaping a view of events that has prevailed ever since. But its conclusions are belied by a mountain of evidence collected by the commission itself during the inquiry and contributed by engineers and public officials subsequently. "The combined weight of this evidence suggests, rather, that the errors behind the collapse were rooted in the project's organizational culture." Kranakis links organizational factors to three crucial technical errors that the commission found to be responsible for the bridge's collapse, and uses that discussion to lead into the broader question of how organizations influence engineering. "One of the ironies of the Quebec Bridge disaster," she concludes, "is that the important organizational lessons it offeredÑalthough understood by many engineers and public officials at the time of the eventÑhave since been forgotten because later analysts accepted the Royal Commission's narrow interpretation of error and causation."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1097-3729
Print ISSN
0040-165X
Pages
pp. 487-518
Launched on MUSE
2004-09-15
Open Access
No
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