Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 15 Issue 3 (September 2007), Pages 119-170

Evidence of an Interaction Involving Complexity and Coupling as Predicted by Normal Accident Theory (pages 123-133)

This paper describes a test of the principle hypothesis of Normal Accident Theory. It posits and tests for the existence of an interaction involving interactive complexity and coupling associated with in an important class of manufacturing organizations. Ninety four (n=94) petroleum refineries located in the United States during the five‐year period 1993–97 were examined. The dependent variable in this test was the ratio of Reportable Quantity accidental hazardous chemical releases per unit of production. Refinery capacity and age were included as control variables. This study identified a statistically significant interaction involving interactive complexity and coupling, as predicted by Normal Accident Theory. The interaction appears to be consistent with an important core hypothesis of normal accident theory over a significant portion of its domain. The nature of this interaction and its potential relevance to organizational sense making is discussed. Additional opportunities for quantitative research involving Normal Accident Theory are identified.

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