The Eschede Train Disaster: Ethics of Risk Management in Companies

The Eschede Train Disaster: Ethics of Risk Management in Companies

  • Case
  • Teaching Notes
Abstract

In 1998, an Intercity-Express (ICE) high-speed train of German rail Deutsche Bahn derailed, which led to the biggest train disaster in German history, leaving 101 people dead. The ICE was generally considered an exceptionally safe way of traveling, and disasters like this one were thought to be impossible. In the aftermath, investigations of the accident showed that a small wheel had broken due to fatigue. A complex chain of technical causes ultimately led to the disastrous derailment. The question arises as to what steps the Deutsche Bahn could have been realistically expected to take in order to prevent the accident from happening, in view of the complexity of the technology. On the one hand, customers demand better and more convenient mobility, on the other hand, with technology becoming more complicated, risks for failure increase. This ethical dilemma is one that many technological companies struggle with; that is, difficult ethical decision-making under conditions of risk.

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