Current coal pillar design is the epitome of suspension design. In principle, this is seemingly no different from early roadway roof support design. However, for the most part, roadway roof stabilisation has progressed to reinforcement, whereby the roof strata is assisted in supporting itself. Suspension and reinforcement are fundamentally different and, importantly, lead to substantially different requirements in terms of roof support hardware characteristics and their application. This paper presents a prototype coal pillar and overburden system representation where reinforcement, rather than suspension, of the overburden is the stabilising mechanism via the action of in situ horizontal stresses within the overburden, the suspension problem potentially being an exception rather than the rule, as is also the case in roadway roof stability. Established principles relating to roadway roof reinforcement can potentially be applied to coal pillar design under this representation. The merit of this assertion is evaluated according to documented failed pillar cases in a range of mining applications and industries found in a series of published databases. Based on the various findings, a series of coal pillar system design considerations and suggestions for bord and pillar type mine workings are provided. This potentially allows a more flexible and informed approach to coal pillar sizing within workable mining layouts, as compared with common industry practices of a single design Factor of Safety (FoS) under defined overburden dead-loading to the exclusion of other potentially relevant overburden stabilising influences.