September 15, 2005 | Mark Paradies

What’s Wrong with Fault Trees

I’ve seen many people suggest that Fault Trees are an excellent too for root cause analysis. I learned to use Fault Trees when I was getting my Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering. I could see how they could be used proactively to have a systematic analysis of potential problems. The logic in the tree appeals to engineers.

But I’ve seen Fault Trees misused by engineers and others when analyzing the root causes of accidents. How were they misused? The investigators used the Fault Tree to “prove” that the cause they understood (they had seen before – they had experience with) was the cause of the accident.

I’ve seen many people suggest that Fault Trees are an excellent too for root cause analysis. I learned to use Fault Trees when I was getting my Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering. I could see how they could be used proactively to have a systematic analysis of potential problems. The logic in the tree appeals to engineers.

But I’ve seen Fault Trees misused by engineers and others when analyzing the root causes of accidents. How were they misused? The investigators used the Fault Tree to “prove” that the cause they understood (they had seen before – they had experience with) was the cause of the accident.

Recently a reader sent me a link to a Japanese web site that was filled with Fault Trees. To me it once again proved why Fault Trees don’t make a very good accident investigation tool.

See the site at: http://shippai.jst.go.jp/en/index.html and see if you agree.

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