Extraordinarily severe gas explosion accidents (ESGEAs) (thirty fatalities or more in one accident) have a high occurrence frequency in Chinese coal mines. There are 126 ESGEAs that occurred in China from 1950 to 2015, and they were investigated through statistical methods in this study to review the overall circumstances and to provide quantitative information on ESGEAs. Statistical characteristics about accident-related factors, such as gas accumulation, ignition sources, operating locations, accident time, coal mine regions and coal mine ownership, were assessed in this paper. The statistical analysis shows that disorganized ventilation fan management was the most frequent cause of gas accumulation in ESGEAs, while illegal blasting was the most prominent cause of the ignition source in ESGEAs. Furthermore, ESGEAs were found to occur frequently in certain provinces (e.g., Shanxi, Henan and Heilongjiang) and during November and December of the year. Moreover, most accidents and the largest death tolls generally occur in state-owned coal mines. Based on the results of statistical studies, some countermeasures were proposed in this study.
The coal mine production industry is a complex sociotechnical system with interactive relationships among several risk factors. Currently, causation analysis of gas explosion accidents is mainly focused on the aspects of human error and equipment fault, while neglecting the interactive relationships among risk factors. A new method is proposed through risk coupling. First, the meaning of risk coupling of a gas explosion is defined, and types of risk coupling are classified. Next, the coupled relationship and coupled effects among risk factors are explored through combining the interpretative structural modeling (ISM) and the NK model. Twenty-eight representative risk factors and 16 coupled types of risk factors are obtained through analysis of 332 gas explosion accidents in coal mines in China. Through the application of the combined ISM-NK model, an eight-level hierarchical model of risk coupling of a gas explosion accident is established, and the coupled degrees of different types of risk coupling are assessed. The hierarchical model reveals that two of the 28 risk factors, such as state policies, laws, and regulations, are the root risk factors for gas explosions; nine of the 28 risk factors, such as flame from blasting, electric spark, and local gas accumulation, are direct causes of gas explosions; whereas 17 of the risk factors, such as three-violation actions, ventilation system, and safety management, are indirect ones. A quantitative analysis of the NK model shows that the probability of gas explosion increases with the increasing number of risk factors. Compared with subjective risk factors, objective risk factors have a higher probability of causing gas explosion because of risk coupling.