PITTSBURGH -- Absenteeism by industrial workers not only triggers high financial costs for employers but also contributes to a more accident-prone work place, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

While most studies on absenteeism have focused on causes, CMU industrial psychologist Paul Goodman said Monday a new study he conducted with CMU economist Steven Garber dealt with safety or accidents revolving around absenteeism.

"The results seem to suggest, at least at the extremes, that absences can lead to low familiarity (with the job environment), which in turn leads to higher accident rates," the researchers said in February's Journal of Applied Psychology.

The researchers gathered data from more than 2,300 miners in production crews in five underground coal mines for their sample. The research found that -- in the extreme -- absences can lead to low familiarity with the equipment and the mine, which leads to higher accident rates.

For a year, both regular and replacement coal miners were studied. During that time, approximately 340 accidents took place, or about one for every 205 miner-days worked.

The miners who were absent the least -- and thus were most familiar with the job -- had fewer accidents than regular or replacement miners who had missed work the previous day, the study found.

"Every work place is a configuration of machines, materials, physical environment, people and programs concerning how work activities should be done," the researchers concluded.

And workers unfamiliar with such factors can not only lead to more dangerous conditions around themselves but also may jeopardize nearby colleagues, the study found.

The study's findings suggest manpower policies could be improved by organizing pools of replacement workers around specific job categories and by giving on-the-job training to replacement and adjacent workers before the job begins, the researchers said.