Blood on the coal: the effect of organizational size and differentiation on coal mine accidents

J Safety Res. 2009;40(2):85-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2008.12.007. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


Introduction: Each year, there are at least 100,000,000 occupational accidents and 100,000 occupational deaths in the world. In the United States, one of the safest countries in the world in which to work, there were more than 5,400 workplace fatalities and 5.9 million workplace injuries in 2007. The cost to American industry and taxpayers is estimated to be at least $170 billion per year. Further, as illustrated by accidents such as Three Mile Island and Bhopal, industrial accidents potentially impact a much wider sphere than that of the injured worker and his or her employer. As the repercussions of organizational accidents reverberate through organizations and are felt from human resources to accounting, firms are beginning to incorporate messages of safety in their missions and strategies. As firms organize to achieve safer work environments, they are faced with decisions on how to structure their activities in terms of, among other things, size and differentiation.

Method: This paper explores the impact on accident rates of size and differentiation at the corporate and mine levels of mining companies in an effort to create a framework for thinking about organizational accidents from a structural perspective.

Results: The results suggest that larger mines are safer than smaller mines, and that mines with less task diversity are safer than mines with greater task diversity. The results also suggest that at the corporate level, task diversity decreases mine accidents. These results may help mining executives and engineers structure their corporate activities and individual mines more effectively to help reduce accidents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Coal Mining / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Policy
  • Safety Management / methods
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • United States / epidemiology