Many major accidents eg Piper Alpha, Chernobyl, were initiated by human failure. Human failure is not random and people’s actions are rarely malicious and usually make sense to them at the time. This is the second guiding principle for OCIMF actions on human factors, highlighting the importance of understanding why errors occur in order to develop effective controls.
Everyone can make errors no matter how well trained and motivated they are. However in the workplace, the consequences of such human failure can be severe and thus every organization needs to be able to identify possible human failures. In that regard, a risk assessment helps to identify areas of human failure in safety critical tasks and control measures.
Understanding the different types of human failure
- Action Errors: Slips or lapses – ‘’not doing what you meant to do’’
- Thinking Errors: Mistakes of judgement or decision-making – “doing the wrong thing believing it to be right’’
- Violations: non-compliances, circumventions, shortcuts and work-arounds – ‘’failing to follow procedures, to save time or effort’’
8 Common Pitfalls in Managing Human Failure
#1 Treat individual as if they are superhuman
#2 Assume that individuals will always be present, detect a problem and immediately take appropriate action
#3 Assume that individuals always follow procedures
#4 Trust that people are trained with regards accident prevention or control
#5 Rely that all people are highly motivated and thus not prone to unintentional failures
#6 Ignore the human factor completely and failing to discuss human performance in risk assessments
#7 Apply techniques inappropriately, losing sight of focusing on effective resources
#8 Indicate very low chance of failure in risk assessment without documenting assumptions/data sources
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