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Patterns of ‘Mock Bureaucracy’ in Mining Disasters: An Analysis of the Westray Coal Mine Explosion

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Recent studies on the antecedents of industrial crises have tended to focus on disasters in high-risk systems involving complex technologies and tightly-knit processes. This paper examines events leading up to mining disasters which past research has characterized as being typically more foreseeable and avoidable. We discuss how many mining disasters are likely to be the result of ‘mock bureaucracies’ or situations characterized by overt violation of safety rules at the workplace. Using the Westray mine explosion as an illustrative case, the paper traces the development and institutionalization of a mock bureaucracy in an organization. Implications for further research and understanding of industrial crises are drawn.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: St Francis Xavier University, 2: University of Calgary

Publication date: July 1, 1997

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