Complexity and Change: Antecedents of occupational injuries

Yanbing Chen (Corresponding Author), Frank Wiengarten, Di Fan, Mark Pagell

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Today's environment requires operations and supply chains to be adaptable and flexible, leading to a constant state of change. This complex business environment presents multiple difficulties in managing occupational safety. To date, safety research has largely focused on the complexity of a firm's operations, directly linking the complexity of the operational environment to workforce safety. This research explores the effect of complexity on occupational injuries from multiple dimensions (operational, supply chain and market) to answer the question: “Do the absolute level of complexity and changes in the level of complexity exert a negative effect on a company's safety performance?” Using secondary data from global companies listed in the United States, our results indicate that an increase in occupational injuries is generally associated with higher levels of operational complexity. This study contributes to the existing literature by conceptually and empirically confirming that supply chain and market complexity have negative implications for occupational safety. The findings also extend the existing literature, showing that an increase in the level of complexity leads to a significant increase in occupational injuries, while a decrease in complexity does not necessarily reduce occupational injuries. Our findings suggest that practitioners should be aware of the implications for safety performance when making structural decisions that create greater complexity. Furthermore, the findings also inform policymakers and regulators, suggesting that companies that are exposed to more complexity − even complexity that is exogenous to the operations − require greater attention in monitoring and auditing to ensure the safety of the workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106560
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2024


  • Complexity
  • Empirical study
  • Global operations
  • Supply chain
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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