A system dynamics analysis of the Westray mine disaster

Authors

  • David L. Cooke

    Corresponding author
    1. Operations Management, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
    • Operations Management, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • I acknowledge the thoughtful, detailed and helpful comments made by the anonymous reviewers of this paper, which guided me towards a much better result than I would have attained without their direction. I also thank Tom Rohleder of the University of Calgary, Canada and Jose Gonzalez of Agder University College, Norway, for their mentoring and support.

Abstract

This article describes a system dynamics analysis of the 1992 Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia, Canada. It examines the causal structure of the Westray system, including relationships that could have led to conditions that caused the fatal explosion at the mine. The value of simulation is its ability to capture a “mental model” of the safety system, which can stimulate discussion among safety experts as to the systemic causes of a disaster. By taking into account feedback loops and non-linear relationships, which is not possible with conventional root-cause analysis, a dynamic model of the system provides insights into the complex web of causes that can lead to disaster and valuable lessons for organizational learning. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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