Implementing Human Error Reduction Tools in the Workplace

Studies show that nine out of ten workplace accidents, as well as 23% of unplanned work downtime, results from human error. Human error isn’t the result of sabotage, malice, or idiocy, though–many of these slips, lapses, and mistakes occur when employees are stressed and working beyond capacity. Employers can increase workplace efficiency by implementing human error reduction tools, which are management tools that take human error into account and work around it. Here are some of the most important rules of thumb that managers can start to implement right away.

Coach, Console, Punish

Humans are just that, they’re human. They’re prone to make mistakes, to have attention or memory failures, or to have simple slips and lapses. Employers can address these types of human error by recognizing what was and wasn’t reasonably preventable. Experts recommend using a “Coach, Console, Punish” approach, using various attitudes to address differing levels of error.

Employees can and should be punished for engaging in risky behavior, such as knowingly obstructing a process or intentionally violating an important safety code to hide a mistake. However, many errors are unintentional, and punishing these mistakes creates a culture in which employees are afraid to come forward when issues arise. Managers should therefore console their employees for unintentional errors, such as over-torquing a bolt or forgetting to reapply a mask, and coach them for mistakes. Mistakes are decision making errors that arise from taking on too-many tasks at once or working in a high-stress situation. Employers should coach their subordinates through mistakes, recognizing the error and discussing ways to prevent the same outcome.

Human Factors Engineering

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is the process of implementing human error reduction tools into the workplace. Many errors result from informal processes, such as an employee devising their own process for managing a project or doing their own mental math. Using HFE processes to codify procedures and management systems can reduce human error by taking the guesswork out of daily workplace activities.

Use Effective Investigation Techniques

Many employees dread human error investigations, fearing that they’ll be exposed and reprimanded for attention failures or lapses. The goal of a human error investigation, though, should be to identify the root causes of deviations in order to increase efficiency and efficacy. It may be helpful to work with a third party evaluator or independent expert. A thirty day investigation is considered standard, but investigators may experience push back from fearful or defensive employees. Treating the investigation purely as a fact-finding mission, which is about learning from human errors that may have occurred, rather than rooting out problem employees, will generate a more thoughtful investigation.

These human error reduction tools can make a significant difference in an organization’s day-to-day operations, but they’re also just the tip of the iceberg. Managers should consider human error reduction training for an in-depth look at how to implement change in their own workplace.

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