Human Error

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Definition - What does Human Error mean?

Human error is a catchall category used to describe a human action or inaction that caused an accident, incident, or near miss. Human error distinguishes the action from other causes such as machine breakdowns or environmental factors.

Health and safety experts label an event as being caused by human error if the planned action failed to result in the intended outcome or desired outcome. Human error can occur because a worker lacks the information necessary to properly perform a task or make a critical decision, fails to follow the prescribed steps for the task, lacks the skills or training to perform the task safely, or could be a simple matter of humans make mistakes even when all other conditions may be perfect.

Human errors are different from deliberate acts of sabotage. When human error occurs the action may or may not be intentional, but outcome is not intended.

Human error is sometimes referred to as human factors or human failures.

SureHire explains Human Error

During an accident or incident investigation, reviewers will attempt to identify each step leading up to the eventual unwanted event. As a part of this evaluation, investigators will examine whether each worker involved in the incident performed his or her duties as assigned and properly.

For example, an employer's forklift operation procedures should require that each operator set the parking break and turns off the ignition before dismounting. If an employee is injured or equipment damaged due to a runaway forklift, the ensuing investigation would examine whether the forklift operator had followed the appropriate parking procedures. If the required steps weren't followed, the event would be attributable to human error. A finding that the machine failed to power down or that the parking break was inoperable might lead to a different conclusion. Although, the mechanical failure in this example could ultimately be attributable to a worker's failure to properly maintain the forklift.

Employers can proactively evaluate work procedures and processes to avoid events involving human error. Active management and supervision, training, process improvements and incident tracking can all help employers address the risks associated with human error.

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